Conservative Diary

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Students can forget about using recall ballots to oust Liberal Democrat MPs

By Paul Goodman

The BBC was getting excited about this prospect yesterday afternoon and evening, attributing the idea to the NUS's campaign against the Government's student finance proposals.  I could swear that I heard Laura Kuenssberg mention the suggestion twice.

Well, it isn't going to happen.

I've checked with sources close to Douglas Carswell, that relentless champion of recall ballots, and they point out that the Government wants the trigger for such a ballot to be a decision of the Standards and Privileges Committee.  The Coalition Agreement refers to a petition "signed by 10 per cent of his or her constituents".  This dovetails with my sources, and Jonathan's detailed piece about this matter written last April explains exactly how.

Two practical points arise from this -

First, the Standards and Priveleges Committee is about as likely to begin a recall ballot process for the convenience of the NUS, or local student unions and student campaigns, as it is to co-opt Carswell himself as a member.

And, second, the NUS wouldn't have much of a shot even under Carswell's alternative - and more voter-friendly - suggestion, which favours a "double trigger": one of 10 per cent of voters in any constituency signing a petition, plus a consequent ballot on a by-election proposal, which must have the support of 50 per cent of voters plus one.

CCHQ was the target of violence yesterday.  When it comes to surgeries and in constituencies, I suspect it will be Liberal Democrat MPs.  But, for better or worse, they've no need to flap about being stampeded out of their seats by recall ballots.


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