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Tories will give the public power to sack MPs mid-term

Mending Britain's "broken politics" in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal is one of David Cameron's big themes at this general election.

And today the Conservative Party will be announcing proposals to give people the power to "recall" MPs mid-term, if a certain proportion of the electorate in any given constituency sign a petition demanding such a ballot.

It was the mechanism which saw the recall of California Governor Gray Davis (and subsequent election of Arnold Schwarzenegger) and it would not only put more hands in the power of people but also make politicians more accountable to their electorates - aims with which few would surely disagree.

It is a measure which is thoroughly commendable. Moreover, it demonstrates that David Cameron is serious about ensuring that trust is restored in the political system at a time when there is still massive public scepticism and disenchantment at the end of what some have characterised as the "Rotten Parliament".

Labour, meanwhile - according to today's Guardian - are set on referendums on rigging the electoral system with a system of PR and electing the House of Lords, as well as proposing reducing the voting aged to sixteen. Oughtn't they be more concerned about increasing the number of 18-24 year olds who they can inspire to vote before they think about extending tyhe franchise to teenagers?

Check back later for more details of the Tory proposal on recall ballots.

11.15am update:

The party has just announced details of how a Conservative Government would introduce the power to recall MPs.

It is being trumpeted as the end of the concept of any MP being able to bask in retaining a "safe seat" regardless of their conduct. However, the Commons' Standards and Privileges Committee (which the Tories want to reform by putting up to three external non-parliamentary members onto the committee) will act as a  check on the mechanism being used gratuitously.

The Right to Recall procedure would work as follows:

  • In cases where the Standards and Privileges Committee finds against  an MP, it will have the power to decide whether the use of recall powers should be applicable;
  • Similarly, in cases where an MP has been convicted of a criminal offence, the committee would also issue a special report explaining whether recall was recommended;
  • If the Standards Committee gives the green light to the use of the recall powers, at least 100 constituents would have to sign a "notice of intent to recall" petition and submit it to the local returning officer;
  • Once registered in that way, there would be a 90-day window for the petitioners to attract the signatures of 10% of the electorate in order to trigger a by-election, after which time limit the petition would fall if unsuccessful.

Rules would state that recall petitions could not be sponsored or funded by officials or employees of a political party.

Sir George Young Daily Politics Shadow Commons Leader (and former Standards and Privileges Committee chairman) Sir George Young has released the following statement:

"The last five years has been disastrous for Parliament and trust in politics has reached an all-time low. People want change and politicians must become more directly accountable for their actions. We have proposed a power of recall that will allow constituents to remove their MP mid-term without having to wait for a general election. Giving local people the power to cast a vote of no confidence in their elected representative will bring an end to the concept of the 'safe seat' and make MPs directly answerable to their constituents over the whole of a Parliament, not just every five years.

“Recall will be triggered by a completely restructured Committee on Standards and Privileges that, for the first time in Parliament’s history, will contain non-parliamentary members – as I recommended to the Committee on Standards in Public Life last July. Our proposals will help to rebuild trust in Parliament and put more power where it belongs – in the hands of the people”.

Jonathan Isaby


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