X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Coffee House

After Mercer, Hancock, Miller and now Ruffley, we need a proper MPs Recall Bill

29 July 2014

10:30 AM

29 July 2014

10:30 AM

There seem to have been few people who did not offer their two cents on David Ruffley. From domestic violence charities to his political opponents, in the chattering classes and in the blogosphere, all kinds of people felt the need to share their opinion about whether it was appropriate for the Bury St Edmunds MP to remain in Parliament after accepting a police caution for assaulting a former partner.

However, save a few local political and religious leaders who have a platform from which to be heard, one group has been if not entirely silent then entirely powerless throughout: the constituents whom Mr Ruffley serves. Indeed, the people who sent him to the House of Commons to represent them have been side-lined from the discussion about his future, despite being the body to whom he should be directly accountable.

Now that Ruffley has said he will stand down at the General Election they will be denied the chance to pass judgement on him at the ballot box – yet his not-quite-resignation means he will remain as their MP for the next nine months.

This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Ruffley’s constituents will doubtless be wondering why it is in Westminster back rooms – and not in Bury St Edmunds – that decisions have been made about who should represent them in Parliament. Others have exercised power that should be in their hands.

[Alt-Text]


Cases like this – and this is by no means an isolated incident, as Basingstoke (Maria Miller) and Portsmouth South (Mike Hancock) residents will attest – are why Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith tabled his Recall Bill earlier in this Parliament: a piece of legislation which would allow for a mid-term vote on whether an MP should remain in place if enough constituents who felt let down by their representative successfully petitioned for a ballot. It was sensible, overdue, and delivered on a promise. Caught up in the anti-politics mood, both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives pledged to introduce a ‘power of recall’ in the Coalition Agreement. We at the TaxPayers’ Alliance supported it, as did campaign groups from across the political spectrum.

Yet instead of Goldsmith’s bill, what we have been given by the Coalition is a grubby little compromise, with an announcement in the Queen’s Speech earlier this year that looks like recall, talks like recall, but very definitely is not recall. Importantly, it entails a parliamentary committee ruling on an MP’s behaviour before voters can start gathering the signatures needed to trigger a recall ballot. It’s impossible to know whether this committee would have judged Ruffley’s behaviour to be unacceptable; but the point is that it should be constituents – the people an MP is paid to represent – who make that decision. After years of MPs policing each other with what might charitably be described as mixed results, it’s clear that further centralising power in Westminster is not the way to go about delivering true recall.

Opponents fear kangaroo courts, with constituents irritated by MPs taking out their anger with green ink signatures. Such a fear can be assuaged by the evidence from elsewhere in the world where recall is on offer – but used sparingly. And those parliamentarians opposing this simple yet effective check on their behaviour betray a view of the electorate that does Westminster no favours.

Despite how it things can seem from a glance at Twitter, the vast majority of Britain’s voters are mature participants in a stable democracy – a democracy that would be even stronger if more of its power was returned to the public.

The Coalition’s Recall Bill – supposedly designed to increase the electorate’s trust in MPs and the oft-disparaged political class – will do nothing of the sort. It is ironic that a move designed to bridge the gap between Westminster and the electorate will widen it yet further. The easiest way to restore some public trust in the political and parliamentary systems – and ensure that the power to hold errant MPs to account is in the right hands – is to deliver a genuine power of recall as written into the Goldsmith bill.

Andy Silvester is Campaign Manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close