Four years after promising a recall system for MPs, the coalition has delivered on its promise in today’s Queen Speech. Or has it? The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith doesn’t think so. The long-time campaigner for a proper recall bill believes that the proposals announced today are a ‘pretence’. On this week’s View from 22 podcast, Goldsmith reveals why he doesn’t believe the recall announced is really a recall:
‘Under the government’s proposals, there isn’t a recall referendum…effectively the [Parliamentary Standards] committee decides an MP qualifies for recall, they’re finished. That’s it. It’s all power to the committee, all to the institution and no to the voters’
Goldsmith also thinks that the criteria is so narrow — essentially for ‘serious financial wrongdoing’ — that few misbehaving MPs will qualify for recall. Instead of putting trust back into politics, he believes it will make things worse:
‘The danger is that the very next scandal, voters will realise they’ve been duped. The next time an MP gets into terrible trouble, voters will learn they can’t recall their MP and this recall bill is worth absolutely nothing.
‘The sense of betrayal and the sense of anger will be immense. People won’t just think politicians are liars, they’ll know politicians are liars…this is a pretence’
But are the present recall plans better than nothing at all? Goldsmith believes they are a good thing, but only because it opens the door to future change:
‘I heard last night it was going to be dropped all together so I’m pleased its there, but only because it gives us an opportunity to come in and amend it. And it needs a very radical amendment because it’s not actually a recall bill.’
It’s a shame that after four years of coalition fighting over recall, the result is such a half thought-out solution. Although not all MPs will believe, like Goldsmith, that the proposals are a deliberate misjudgment by the government, many will be concerned what happens when the next Maria Miller or Patrick Mercer comes along, and the word ‘recall’ is whispered for the first time.