Monday, October 27, 2008

Conflicts of interest / duty

The Fat Bigot has written a good piece about why Mandelson doesn't have a conflict of interst and what he has is a conflict between personal interst and duty.

Details continue to be revealed about Lord Mandelson's dealings with Russia's aluminium bigwig. The coverage on television, in newspapers and on the radio is littered with the expression "conflict of interests". This phrase irritates me enormously because it is fundamentally inaccurate, indeed it is so inaccurate that it serves to play down the seriousness of the situation yet those who use it think it does the opposite. Let me explain.

Assume you are Billy Biggins, the EU Trade Commissioner, and you have to give advice and take decisions about levels of EU import duty on aluminium. Your decisions should be made only after all appropriate enquiries have been conducted and you have considered all relevant submissions made to you. The requirement to approach your job in that way has nothing to do with you personally, it goes with the job. Exactly the same obligations fall on every commissioner in every field. Those obligations arise out of the fact that you are under a duty to give impartial and properly considered advice and a duty to reach decisions only after considering all relevant circumstances. That is your duty to your employers.
He is right, personal interest should not an issue, the problem is that people like Mandelson seem to think that if something is in their personal interest it must therefore be in the interests of the rest of us.

More lazy soundbite reporting, a bit like the "shot to kill" reporting I have commented on before.

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