'Warning signs for UK' amid global deterioration in political accountability

The impact of Covid-19 on the United Kingdom’s health service and a “deterioration of political accountability” has seen prosperity within the country stall, a think-tank has said.

The Legatum Institute’s annual prosperity index, which ranks countries against several metrics including health, social capital and their economy, said global prosperity had “plateaued” in the past year.

The UK has stayed 13th in the index, the same as 2020, but this is a drop from tenth overall in 2016, the institute said.

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Concerns around political accountability, labelled a “key area of concern” by the report, and one area in which the UK dropped down in the rankings, come as Westminster and the UK Government battle accusations of sleaze.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in Downing Street.Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in Downing Street.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in Downing Street.
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It follows a damaging row for Boris Johnson over the standards process in Westminster, after attempting to rewrite the rules after Tory MP Owen Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules.

Mr Paterson was set to receive a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons, but the UK Government forced a vote attempting to rewrite the rules and overturn the MP’s suspension, only to U-turn less than 24 hours later when the new cross-party committee became untenable as opposition parties confirmed they would boycott the new system.

The MP later resigned, and the Prime Minister admitted he could have handled the situation better.

Since then, high-profile MPs such as Sir Geoffrey Cox, minister Nadhim Zahawi and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross have all faced damaging headlines amid calls for rules around second jobs and outside earnings to be tightened.

Chief executive of the Legatum Institute, Tory peer Baroness Philippa Stroud, said the past two weeks showed the need for a “strong and credible” Parliament to allow for improved political accountability.

She said: “Over the course of our history this amazing nation of ours has built its prosperity by building on a firm foundation of the rule of law, open markets, respect for freedoms and personal responsibility. But the first warning lights are beginning to flash for the UK.

“The 2021 results are showing that the UK has fallen three places in the world since 2016, from tenth to 13th, and in Western Europe, the UK has fallen two places since 2019, from tenth to 12th. This should concern us all.

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“Suppression of the freedom of people to assemble and their freedom of speech is beginning to lead to limited and stunted prosperity. If we want the Levelling Up agenda to work, we’ve got to empower and free individuals to make the most of their talents.”

She added: “But good governance and democratic institutions are crucial too, if we want the UK to become increasingly prosperous.

"And after the parliamentary events of the last two weeks, now more than ever we need a strong and credible Parliament in the UK that reasserts itself and ensures the executive is held to account, so that those who govern do so according to the principles of the rules of law.

“Creating lasting pathways to prosperity requires that we do not take our core freedoms for granted. We squander them at our peril.”

A UK Government said: “The government is committed to the highest standards of accountability and efficiency.

“Ministers are made accountable via a variety of mechanisms, such as responding to written and oral questions in Parliament, through scrutiny committees and by answering correspondence from MPs and the public every day."

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