Parliamentary sketch – Recalling what you wish for
Should electors be given the power to petition to get rid of their local MP between elections?
OK. OK. I get the point. I don’t want to be trampled in the stampede!
Anyway, as I was about to say, MPs have been considering this week how electors can hold their MPs to account, other than the once in every five year opportunity of a General Election.
I strongly support the so-called “Right to Recall” campaign. It was in my Party’s Manifesto.
The challenge, however, is to find an effective way of determining when this “Right” should apply. We should stop MPs clinging on to their seats when they’ve been found guilty of serious wrongdoing. But some campaigners believe that MPs should be recalled by electors “for whatever reason”! Who should decide?
Of course, electors should be able to petition to force a by-election where the MP has been convicted of a crime or been suspended from the House of Commons for serious misconduct, etc.
But the definition of “serious wrongdoing” or “misconduct” should not be determined by the Westminster club of MPs but be open to wider scrutiny.
The Government Bill makes clear that electors should decide if those found guilty of “serious wrongdoing” should be “Recalled” and therefore required to stand in a by-election (if they wish to re-stand) once a petition of more than 10% of the electors support such a campaign.
However, if this “Right” is badly drafted then it could become a political tool; one to be used by political opponents (whether overtly or covertly) in marginal seats or by the vexatious or obsessive and by the rich and powerful to run campaigns against independent-minded MPs or MPs they disagree with.
The multi-millionaire Tory MP, Zac Goldsmith, for example, has tabled a Parliamentary Motion which demands that MPs can be recalled, as he puts it, “for whatever reason”!
There is a problem with creating a law which allows a wealthy individual or corporation the power to gather a petition of just 10% of the electors in a constituency (not a difficult thing to do if you have the money, power and determination) to oust a sitting MP in a marginal seat “for whatever reason” (justified or otherwise).
It would seriously undermine the capacity of MPs (like me for instance!) who stick their necks out, defy their Party Whip, show their independent mindedness and occasionally seek to defend some of the most unpopular causes and groups in society. There are some wealthy and powerful campaigning organisations with the determination to use and abuse this power should it be introduced.
The problem with a badly drafted “Right to Recall” is that we will end up with the very timid, identikit and malleable politicians that many people tell me that they dislike.
So, let’s have a “Right to Recall”. But when we are campaigning for it, be careful what you wish for…
You can contact Andrew George by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His constituency office can be contacted at Trewella, 18 Mennaye Road, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 4NG. Telephone: 01736 360020.
Andrew George MP
Kernow a’n West ha Syllan
West Cornwall and the Scillies
Constituency of St Ives
Tel: 01736 360020
Fax: 01736 332866
21st October 2014