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Tuesday 10 December 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Westminster examples of morality in public life

THE EDITOR: American author and professional speaker Spencer Johnson said, “Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”

The UK’s defence secretary Michael Fallon resigned on November 2, 2017, admitting that his past behaviour towards women had “fallen short.” Fallon’s departure came after a broadcaster and newspaper columnist, Julia Hartley-Brewer, confirmed he had repeatedly placed his hand on her knee at a dinner in 2002. Fallon’s exact words to the media were:

“In recent days allegations have been made about MPs’ conduct, including my own. Many of these have been false, but I realise that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces, which I have the privilege to represent.”

In January, two prominent Canadian politicians stepped down from leadership posts over allegations about their behaviour toward women. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Kent Hehr, 48, had resigned as minister for sport and persons with disabilities while the government investigates allegations that he made inappropriate comments to women.

That announcement followed the resignation of Patrick Brown as the leader of the opposition Progressive Conservative Party in the province of Ontario. Brown stepped down early over allegations he made unwanted sexual advances to two women. He strongly denied the claims, which surfaced in a report on CTV News earlier.

In November 2017, the UK’s Priti Patel, Britain’s first Indian-origin Cabinet minister, resigned as international development secretary as the political crisis engulfing the British government intensified. Hers was the second Cabinet resignation within a week. Defence secretary Fallon had resigned over sexual harassment allegations the week before.

Patel’s resignation came after an intense day at Westminster amid further revelations about his dealings with senior Israeli politicians and a visit to Israel during a “family holiday” over the summer.

Accusations and counter allegations about the extent to which Downing Street knew of her visit and subsequent policy proposals also ensued.

Patel, who was on an official trip to Africa, cut short her visit to return to meet the Prime Minister with her resignation announced shortly after a brief meeting at Downing Street.

In her resignation Patel apologised for the “distraction” the reports on her activities had created from the government’s operation.

“While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advanced,” she wrote.

Patel publicly apologised for failing to disclose 12 meetings with senior Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a “family holiday” to Israel in August 2017.

In November 2017, the Scottish National Party childcare minister resigned over an offensive remark he made to a woman rather than physical sexual harassment, it has emerged amid warnings to other male MSPs that they should be “extremely worried.”

At the time, senior sources told the Telegraph Mark McDonald’s behaviour toward the woman “was not physical in any sense at all” and he made the comment to the woman several months prior to his resignation.

There is an adage that goes, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching” so that we can exemplify H Jackson Brown’s “live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.”

We may need to refuel at the moral compass station.

H STEW via e-mail

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