John Bowers
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A brief history of standards in public life
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Corruption has always existed in British politics, and it has never been confined to one party. The eleven years of Margaret Thatcher’s government were generally scandal free, leaving John Major with a hard act to follow. He was considered a reliable figure, and pushed a wide-ranging agenda of so-called ‘back to basics’ in an attempt to reassert what some described as ‘Victorian values’. First there was the arms-to-Iraq affair, in which it was revealed that the government had endorsed sales of British-made armaments to the regime of Saddam Hussein. In October 1994, Major called in the senior law lord Lord Nolan to investigate the ‘standards of conduct of all public office-holders’. The first Nolan Report considered standards in the House of Commons, central government (ministers and civil servants) and non-departmental public bodies. Tony Blair seemed to be a new type of politician.

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Downward spiral

Collapsing public standards and how to restore them

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