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Dom S

Jolly good idea. About time the electorate could get rid of failing local government leaders. Why not apply the idea to all Councils and Unitary Authorities?

Kevin Davis

I agree with Dom S, there seems nothing to stop this being a general rule for all local Government.

Whilst it is always difficult to get into the area of deifinitions, I could also see this being applied to any policy which was not a part of the election manifesto.

Donal Blaney

Recall powers were abused at university in students' unions. I myself was subject to a recall motion (along with four other Tories) which took place on my 21st birthday. Thankfully we filibustered the motion after organising a debate that saw hefty increases in funding for sports clubs being proposed by us but we came close. Leftist activists will waste hours of time trying to recall Tories from office; safeguards do need to be put in place.

Graeme Archer

What happens now:

Councils, assemblies and mayors wasting millions of our money on utterly sham consultations ("It's YOUR decision re parking / the congestion charge extension / what's done with our public spaces like Trafalgar Square" ... Whoops! Sorry - forgot to tell you that either we've already made up our minds and are just going through the motions, like a swim off an Ayrshire beach in the 1970s, or we'll get some unaccountable quango to make the decision for us. Either way we're banking on the fact that by the time of the next election cycle you'll either have forgotten or won't be able to bring yourself to vote against our entire platform because of this one issue")

What this policy would make happen:

"We'll treat you like grown ups, and if you feel strongly enough about issue X *and* can demonstrate that a sufficient number of your fellow citizens share that concern (ie of course there would be failsafes built in) *then* we'll do you the courtesy of voting on it in this election cycle".

I think (surprise) this is a fantastic idea. If we do advocate Trusting The People then I can't think of why we'd be against this.

It's also the FIRST policy from a mayoral candidate that advocates something fresh -- something that's distinctively modern and unLivingstone YET fits beautifully with the flow of Tory thought. All of us want better policing, right? What's more likely to work? Mayoral candidates xeroxing a commitment to "zero tolerance" onto their websites, or a new electoral machinery to give the people the power to sack a mayor who doesn't deliver?


"Leftist activists will waste hours of time trying to recall Tories from office; safeguards do need to be put in place."

In London it would be even worse, the Tories on the London Assembly sit around all day wanting to overthrow the Mayor. They have no power over anything so that's all they talk about.

More power to the Mayor, abolish the Assembly, have the ALG scrutinising the Mayor (with none of the perks GLA members get) and then a recall policy would stand a chance of working.

So, Andrew, you'll get my support for this if you would scrap the Assembly, there's no point doing it otherwise.


I'd rather just get rid of the Mayoral office, but failing that, then given the lack of controls on his power this is a good option

Eleanor McHugh

I think this is a very interesting proposal but to be a beneficial change in our system of local government it would need to be very carefully balanced.

The most obvious shortcoming is that whoever held office would constantly be under extreme scrutiny from supporters of opposing parties and as a result there would be a tendency towards populist policies, further undermining the level of political debate.

Secondly for a city the size of London any recall mechanism would need to operate over the course of several months if it were to be given a fair chance of reaching the required level of support.

Given that British electorates are not used to plebiscites in the way that those of California are it could prove difficult to educate them in both the rights and responsibilities that such a policy represents.

It would seem somewhat unreasonable if a low turn-out allowed a representative to be sacked on the paltry turn-outs that we often see in general elections as that would be a charter for constant recall with all the attendant anarchy that implies. To avoid this there would need to be a high bar (say 2/3rds of the total electorate voting in favour) and that means re-engaging the electorate in the political process.

If such a policy were successfully introduced it might prove difficult to restrict it purely to the role of Mayor of London. The more successful that it were seen to be by the electorate, the more they would expect it to be extended to all local government representatives and ultimately even to their parliamentary representatives. Personally I think this would be an excellent move for democracy, but possibly not so good for effective government.

Peter Coe

We absolutely need to abolish the London Assembly; but before we come up with policies to recall the mayor I think we need to review the powers the mayor has - because at the moment its pretty meaningless to vote to recall a mayor because he's largely irrelevant.

I seriously think we need to review - and expand - the powers of the mayor; fore xample it is ludicrous that there is a London-wide responsibility for cleaner streets.

After all, visitors to the 2012 Olympics aren't going to understand why streets in Newham (for instance) are cleaner but crossing into Tower Hamlets (again, for instance - I have no idea what the relative street cleaning standards between the two are) are filthy.

There is a role for boroughs but there are capital wide interests that would be better administered at a city level - in precisely the same way as New York is.

Not sure I'm completely in favour of recalls; on principle I think those who are elected for a term should be voted back or out on the basis of a full record - recalls do prevent politicians taking difficult, unpopular decisions, the consequence of which will be an increase in politicians lying, never taking unpopular decisions and hence, inefficiency and corruption likely to burgeon.

So, if we are to introduce such a measure the level of recall petitioners would need to be set pretty high to make all but the most grossly incompetent politicians immune from recall.

Finally, we cannot just abolish the mayor because London governance was approved by voters in a referendum - so if we were minded to axe it again, at very least we would need to pledge another referendum to undo it. And personally, I don't think abolitionists would win.



You're a big fish in Hackney Conservatives -can you please let me know why they don't even have a website, let alone an out-dated one?

William Norton

Have requirements for a minimum number of signatories from each borough + post a deposit to cover costs. That should frighten off leftist troublemakers or at least hit them in the pocket.

Angelo Basu

If the reasons for this policy are sound, why would they not also be sound in respect of certain classes of central government policy? Just as we vote in (and out) a government on the basis of a consideration of whether on balance it will be the best to do what we as individuals would like we vote for a mayor who on balance will be the best mayor.

To win the Mayoral election or the next General Election we should have positive policies about what we will do and to persuade a majority that those are the best policies rather than negative policies about how to stop the winner from doing what they decide to do.

Denis Cooper

Good ideas, they should both become the general rule for all elected bodies and all elected representatives at all levels everywhere in the country.

Andrew Kelly

There's a big problem with mandating politicians to implement policies they don't agree with. It would be the easiest thing in the world for a policy to be deliberately sabotaged through poor or extremely slow implementation. Surely its better to open up the policy making process itself to wider participation (as we are doing now) and then elect candidates who buy in to what the electorate wants. Trying to fix things after a leader has been voted in is cumbersome and unlikely to succeed. I would also rather judge a politician on their full term performance than potentially have them voted out when there is a dip in the opinion polls.

Adrian Owens

Make it easier to get a proposition on the ballot - say 5% of electors - the same as for the current requests for a referendum to establish an elected mayor.

However, make the hurdle to see a proposition pass reasonably high. 50% turnout of electorate required. Propositions should carry some depth of voter support as well as from an active minority who petition for the ballot in the first place. This hurdle might even encourage greater voter turnouts at the local elections held at the same time.

Not convinced though about the recall suggestion. This seems to have an element of the "we didn't win first time, so let's vote again until we get the right result!". I'm sure though that European commisioners would heartily approve!


Excellent idea to kick off this series. Certainly it should not just be restricted to local government. It looks like Andrew is really just looking for a way of constraining the power of the Mayor of London, whereas this could be used across all aspects of Government.

There would have to be some safeguards to give enought time for voters to reflect on both sides of the argument before a vote was held - so a three month campaign period perhaps. We would also need limits on campaign expenditure and I presume that the Electoral Commission would need to verify the number of signatures and set a balanced proposition. The only restriction for subject matter should be that it directly relates to a decision making power of the local authority in question and that you cannot vote again on the issue for a set period - perhaps 3 years?

I for one would vote for this proposition!


I like the sound of this idea. It would mean the Mayor wouldn't be able to take decisions opposed by the majority of the London electorate. Just because they prefer his manifesto to those of his opponents it doesn't mean they should have to accept all of it.

The usual retort is that politicians sometimes have to make "unpopular but necessary" decisions. But the idea that the decision is "necessary" is just someone's opinion. Most Tories believe Thatcher made unpopular but necessary decisions but a significant minority (or even perhaps a majority...) would disagree that her decisions were necessary. Besides, if a majority of people vote in a way that harms their own interests then they will suffer the consequences.

I have never understood why "populist" is such a dirty word. Is it wrong that the will of the majority should prevail? I know there are oviously some cases where it shouldn't (voting to hurl non-whites into a gas chamber for example) but these are very very rare.

Graeme Archer

AnonOne @ 02.01pm: Hackney Conservative Federation does have a website, though it isn't Andrew's responsibility. It's at www.hackneyconservatives.com - though it hasn't been updated since May.

Denis Cooper

No, the recall idea is excellent; it's like a clause permitting the early termination of a contract in the event that the contractor fails to deliver, and every fixed term contract should have one of those!


Graeme Archer: Why hasn't the Hackney website been updated since May? If Hornsey, Islington, Tottenham and Walthamstow can have updated sites - why can't Hackney? As I said, Andrew's quite senior in Hackney Tories. He's also an iT boff (get it?)?


There should probably be some sort of time delay between the initiation of a recall and the collection of signatures for that recall. Two months? A recall needs to be about sustained concern at the incompetence or other fault of the Mayor - rather than a temporary anger.


Thank you Andrew Boff for this proposal. The citizens' law-proposal and referendum triggered by (many members of) the electorate would invigorate life in our cities and make democracy work better for us all.

A question. Which level of government could introduce these procedures? Could London's local government decide this or would permission and legislation have to come from the Westminster parliament?

Finally I want to mention that our campaign I&Rgb has been proposing similar reforms for about ten years. Our web site offers arguments and background information.

Michael Macpherson

Andrew Boff

There would need to be legislation in place. I will introduce this in London and will draft legislation to extend the initiative procedure to other levels of Government.
Such direct democracy is dependent upon having a Mayor in place who is willing to introduce the procedure and is going to promise to abide by the will of the people.
I will do both.



The citizens' proposition and recall-initiative are certainly good ways to involve people in (their own) public affairs. Of course, most of the business of government continues to be done by the council and mayor.

We need to get the word out about these forms of democracy, which already work well in other capital cities, but which are little known in Britain.

If Andrew Boff's election campaign needs advice on details of "direct democracy" then we may be able to help.

Our Campaign needs members and active supporters. We are independent of political parties and welcome anyone who can endorse our aims -- described at http://www.iniref.org/form.html

Or write to info @ iniref.org

Michael Macpherson

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