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On the Side of the Angels:

Can politicians be moral?

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Peter Lilley, Ken Livingstone, Onora O'Neill. Juliet Gardiner hosts.

The Left has traditionally seen itself as having the moral high ground. But is it an illusion to suppose that any political position is on the side of the angels? Is it time for politics to abandon claims to righteousness or would this be to deny its very purpose?

The Panel

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, eminent ethicist Baroness Onora O'Neill and cabinet minister to Thatcher and Major Peter Lilley consider the place of morality in politics.

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Jump to what you want to see in the debate
  • Peter Lilley
    The Pitch
    Conservatism does strive toward moral goals
  • Ken Livingstone
    The Pitch
    Collectivist ideologies are morally superior to individualist ones
  • Onora O'Neill
    The Pitch
    No political party has a monopoly on values
  • The Debate
    Theme One
    Can policy be ethical?
  • The Debate
    Theme Two
    Morality, markets, and power
  • The Debate
    Theme Three
    Should politicians be moral?
Join the conversation

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MariaHana on 27/09/2013 4:33pm

I think they're right. All of them. Despite what the tabloids might want you to believe, there's no pot of goodness that is held by any political party, institution, country or even individual. The Tories are not inherently evil, the labour not inherently good. They all want to lead and have different ideas about how the best way to do it is.

It's a deeper question about the nature of democracy as it stands, whether there is even a place for morality in politics. Current decision making is based almost entirely on emotive issues with no long-term change potential. The aim of the parties is to get into power and stay in power which encourages more than a certain degree of amorality in getting there and a further dose to stay there. And I don't think the issue lies squarely with power-hungry politicians, it's also the electorate that cannot reliably think in terms of a greater good. The idea of an 'enhanced democracy' such as a geniocracy could lessen these issues.

Edrik on 26/09/2013 3:10pm

This Peter Lilley is quite a different beast from the lambasted climate change denier we've recently seen him as. For the first time in living memory I found myself agreeing with many of his points.

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