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This is a step in the right direction.

I would also suggest term limits - if only I could work out how they could effectively be run. Perhaps politicians should be limited to 20 years of having their salaries covered by the state in party roles ( special divisors, researchers, MPs etc ).

We need to do something about the self serving nature of the professionalisation of politics.

This is very good stuff although I don't think the power should be transcribed too tightly. California's Gray Davis wasn't recalled on ethical grounds but for incompetence. Let's have a general power of recall so long as the threshold is high enough.

I would recall Derek Conway if I were a Bexley constituent and The Wintertons if I lived in Congleton or Maccelesfield.

Peter Hain would be the other obvious candidate.

The very existence of this power would force MPs to raise their game.

If this power existed at the moment, we would certainly have tried to use it in this constituency last summer, when our MP defected. If I had been given £1 for every time somebody here had expressed astonishment anger and disgust that an MP could defect without putting himself up for re-election, I would have been able to buy Frampton Hall (Quentin Davies's house).

Simon Chapman
Chairman Grantham & Stamford Conservative Association

For such an experienced “old fart”, Robert Who?’s comment was extraordinarily childish. Stephen Crabb responded perfectly.

This proposal is excellent and hope that the Conservative Party picks it up and runs with it.

It would be a brave move to open up MPs to being kicked out by their constituents during a Conservative government, but I suspect the public would be very happy about it. However, a decision would need to be made about what the consequences are of removing an MP in terms of who would take their place.

Agree one 100% with everything you've written in this article.Delighted that the younger MPs have stuck their heads over the parapet with this initative.
It seems that at least some of our MPs are starting to 'get it' about how politicians are perceived by all too many of the electorate.

Sounds great but there would have to be pretty high safeguards, especially bearing in mind just how marginal some seats are. It could be so easy for the public to oust an MP just because they didnt vote for them.

"Voters are very supportive of politicians who hold their hands up, say sorry and adopt a position in tune with them."

Voters aren't daft. They know there are skeletons in every cupboard, but they want to see progress.

Recall powers should be available for every elected and unelected official who has some kind of power or influence over public life.

We want these slimy gits to know that we're watching them, and we don't like what we see.

I agree with what the Editor satys about politicians saying sorry and changing their minds although they can only do it once or twice on big issues.

I welcome the initiative, but as James Maskell said, there must be high safeguards.

How about shorter parliaments ?
4 years max .

3 or 2 years would be entirely do-able in this modern age -despite the predictable shreaks and screams of opposition to such an idea

This has always been an old English demand and always fended off by the political class who dominate the British state .

I'm not sure I do agree with this idea.
Surely a poor MP can be removed at the following election.
Trying to devise some mechanism for MPs to be removed in the meantime is inviting tabloid stories to perhaps be invented/grudges from opponents, and would lead to a lot of scared MPs afraid to say or do anything.

It is not part of our traditions - it's a whim.

All MPs should be required to face a primary election before a general election - like the Members of the US Senate and House of Representatives. Any local party member should be allowed stand in their seat, including a challenge an incumbent. The candidates list should therefore be abolished.

These changes would encourage localism and independent candidates to come forward. Aspiring MPs would have to demonstrate their credentials to voters and local members over a lengthy campaign period. It would mean that Donald Blaney would be more likely to be the candidate in Maidstone than Helen Grant.

I like that idea TFA Tory. (would need to think it through though).

I presume that for this to work, members of the electorate would have to register as Conservative voters and only they would be allowed to vote in such a recall exercise.

We all know, that MP's should represent local views/opinions and this proposal does go some way towards allowing free thought and action, in line with opinion, rather than conscience or the party line, but,undermining the authority of the whips, which does destroy party effectiveness.

Otherwise the measure is open to gross abuse, if activists decide to destabilise an individual for gain or point. Equally if this measure is not limited to registered voters then opposition party's may decide to make hay and mischief.

Whilst its a good idea, has it been thought through?. And that $64,00 question, will it apply to MEP's and local councillors. Let's at least see full democracy, responsibility and recourse in play.

@TFA Tory:

Primary elections are a great idea, but they're of questionable legality if handled carelessly. What business does the state have in determining what candidates private parties can and can't field?

But the idea is very sound.


I'm agreeing with TFA Tory. I think my head's about to asplode.

In the case of people crossing the house there should be legislation requiring an immediate bi-election to verify that constituents are in favour of the defection. All parties need to show common sense and fairness in the process of selection to ensure that those fighting to win a seat are chosen on ability rather than on gender, ethnicity or even compliability. Because political parties are going for the safe option in selections it has turned parliament into a gallery of functionaries. There are no longer backbenchers holding frontbenchers to account over policy. whilst it is true that parties must hold a consensus view, there is still room for healthy dissension. The tragic thing about the last ten years is that two men have been allowed an unfettered ride while acting as prime minister and allowed to push through their own agenda, unopposed. The days of the cabinet cabal must end.

Well every opposition complains about that - sometimes fairly.

Although many great things were achieved between 1979 and 1997 there was still a catalogue of badly thought through legislation which was steamrolled through Parliament, and tax payers money wasted, just as there has been from 1997 to 2008.

It might be a good thing if government's legislated a little less and thought a little more.

Of course I agree and I'd set the trigger at 20% raised over a 3 month period. The reason is immaterial - laziness, incompetence, defection, corruption, dishonesty all should be up for grabs. If an MP is doing a good job, a partisan recall is likely to lead to be frowned upon by the electorate and wil lead to an increased majority.

Some of these ideas (recalling MPs) are appalling - they sound like they are drawn up on the back of a fag packet by a 17 year old Human Resources consultant.

They are profoundly un Conservative in nature and tradition.

Of course the expenses need to be dealt with - but we don't need rules about recalling MPs who someone decides are underperforming.

The electorate gets these things right actually - usually.

I respect these new 2005 MPs, but I think they are suggesting it to demonstrate they are clean and above board - out of fear in this climate. They shouldn't need to.

I think the proposal is a bad idea, in that the state need not be involved in this. Proper deselection rules introduced by parties would mean that bad MPs would only be around until the next election.

As for "primaries", there is no need for the state to be involved in this at all, either. Any party could set this up tomorrow. The only state involvement would be to allow parties to spend the funds (from their own coffers) in the run up to an election. The voters could be restricted to party members or open to anyone, although the latter might be subject to abuse. You might end up with a hamster candidate in areas where the opposing party has a large majority!

I don't really know much about Robert Key. I'm annoyed by his apparent assertion that concentrating on constituency matters is somehow a bad thing.
This seems to be part of a mindset amongst some MPs. I'll give two examples.
We had the late Tony Banks complaining about having to be a glorified social worker. (I used to live in his constituency and there was certainly scope for concentating on local problems)

We also have our own attacks on Des Browne wherein it is constantly stated that he has two jobs. He doesn't, he has three. 2 Ministerial jobs and he's an MP.

These members of the 2005 Conservative intake should be applauded.
I know the party has to collectively demonstate our plans for improving the country as a whole. However the priority for all Conservative MPs should be working as an effective AND COST EFFECTIVE MP.

@Joe James Broughton:

Another alternative, of course, would be to move parliamentary elections to a fixed two year cycle.

Then the electorate won't have to wait half a decade to issue punishment to the lazy, corrupt MP in question.

I think the proposals are a very good idea. Also I agree with TFA Tory and Tony Makra.
So yes to the following:
1. The ability by the local electorate to call a by election if their MP is not up to standard, eg, a cheat, corrupt etc.
This should also be extended to local government councillors as well.
2. An MP be who changes parties should stand down and the electorate allowed to vote in a by election.
Again this should be applied to Local government concillors.
3. I agree with Primary contests as part of the selection process for election candidates.
4. MP,s salaries, etc should be governed by a remuneration committee made up of independant people, the same as for a PLC.
5. The speaker should not be an MP but an independant person, voted for by the electorate at each general election.
Finally, yesterday we had the ridiculous spectacle of NetworkRail getting a huge fine (paid for by the taxpayer) for its winter debacle,, and the Chairman McAlister being knighted plus the directors paying themselves huge bonuses
This "MontyPythonesque" nonsense needs to be stopped.
People in senior positions in the public sector should be held accountable for their mistakes and where they have failed, sacked with nothing more than their P45 and, in cases where their incompetence has led to innocent people dying, sent to prison for corporate manslaughter.

You'd end up with about 400 Lib Dem smear campaigns trying to get by-elections.

It's a non starter....

If you ask me bluntly - should MPs be treated a bit differently and trusted not to be so corrupt, then I think probably yes, on balance.

"Some of these ideas (recalling MPs) are appalling - they sound like they are drawn up on the back of a fag packet by a 17 year old Human Resources consultant.
They are profoundly un Conservative in nature and tradition."

Joe James Broughton speaks with the authentic voice of a smug , staid , establishment that has it its own way for far too long . Cameron is right to position himself as the ousider looking in . Really radical reform of British government is needed not just a fobbing off of public revulsion with a little enquiry into expenses .

The Conservatives should now be drawing up a complete plan to establish an English parliament and government and fiscal independence. The new parliament would have an entirely new ethos of transparency eg over expenses and pensions . A new location away from Westminster would not be bad idea .
The Westminster parliament to be cut down in size . Electoral reform as part of the deal the Electoral Commision to be revisited
Elections every 4 years .

Yes its radical

Yes it will get the Conservatives
( should've changed that name a long time ago , still not too late )
elected .

The beauty is that it puts Labour into the position of defending the corrupt establishment .

@James Joe Broughton:

If you ask me bluntly - should MPs be treated a bit differently and trusted not to be so corrupt, then I think probably yes, on balance.

HA HA HA. You're a funny man.

I have to say this seems ill-thought through to me.

How will it work? Is it to be open to the entire electorate in a constituency? If so, as Joe James Broughton points out that is open to abuse from mischievous Labour or Lib Dem supporters organising a targeted campaign, particularly in a marginal seat, maybe timed for a moment when their party is ahead in the polls, the Tories are in difficulties, etc.

If it's restricted to Conservative members only, that's even worse. In the late 1930s Central Office put massive pressure on the Epsom constituency association to muzzle Winston Churchill, even deselect him, because he was an irritation to the government banging on about how Hitler wasn't very nice. Thankfully for all of us Churchill survived this assault, mainly because the Party had no mechanism to enforce their wish.

I'm not "defending the corrupt establishment" in making this argument, by the way; Churchill himself was the embodiment of the anti-establishment at the time.

The point is that "the Establishment" will always use what rules exist and work within them. You can bet your last penny that if this hare-brained MP-recall scheme were to be implemented it, "the Establishment" would soon be using it to get the mavericks out and their own people in. They would NOT be ensuring that MPs were closer to their electorates.

Discredited MPs usually find they lose their seats at the next election. I don't see why this tradition shouldn't be maintained.

For once I agree with a Tory proposal, but they need it. Us Lib Dems have hard working skweeky clean MPs. Tireless.

@Ephraim Gadsby:

You know, in order for it to work, it would need to be accompanied by a change in voting system.

The problem is, over 90% of MPs are elected by less than 50% of the voting electorate, and would therefore be highly vulnerable to such gaming.

If we switched to some manner of Alternative/Supplementary vote system where every MP would need 50% of votes to be elected in the first place.

In which case, such Lib Dem games would be totally pointless. Or, at least, would backfire leading to the MP being returned with a bigger majority.

You know, in order for it to work, it would need to be accompanied by a change in voting system.

Well quite, but so far as I'm aware changing to a system of PR is nowhere near being official Conservative policy. Is it?

In fact I wouldn't be surprised if Labour announce a switch to backing PR soon - I've always thought (as a PR supporter) that the only way we're ever going to see it delivered as a serious pledge by either main party is when they're in government but facing the very real prospect of losing the next election.

Anyway, none of this addresses my central point, which is that maverick MPs who don't always toe the Party Line are not necessarily a bad thing, and enhancing the mechanisms by which their party can get rid of them is not a good step, in my view.

Incidentally, re some of the arguments on here for more frequent elections - someone suggested every two years!! - please, stop and think. Not everyone is as politically obsessed as Tory (or Labour or Lib Dem) activists, or the people who read these boards. Turnout is falling. This needs to be addressed seriously, otherwise the legitimacy of the whole process is undermined. PR would help. But having elections every other year is not a sustainable or sensible proposal, that will just turn people off even more and entrench the "never bother to vote" culture even further.

@Ephraim Gadsby:

Who said anything about PR?

AV is *less* proportional than FPTP. Because of its requirement that each MP get 50%, it eliminates all safe seats and therefore exaggerates swings.

This party, and I, am opposed to PR. I'm not sure we're opposed to changing commons elections to a better non-proportional system though.

You know that the US House of Representatives is elected every two years, don't you? We could do a lot worse than copy them.

Who said anything about PR?
Er... you did. OK, not the purest form of PR, but you mentioned the Alternative Vote system, which is one of many proportional representation voting systems which are regularly debated by those of us in favour of voting reform. The Single Transferable Vote system is another.

This party, and I, am opposed to PR. I'm not sure we're opposed to changing commons elections to a better non-proportional system though.
In other words, we don't think every vote should count but will consider changing the system to one which might help us to win. And we wonder why people are turned off politics...

You know that the US House of Representatives is elected every two years, don't you? We could do a lot worse than copy them.
Yes, I am aware of that. On the contrary, I think we've copied the US rather too much in recent years. Their electoral system is completely different to ours, we can't just pick and choose bits of theirs that we like the sound of - bi-annual elections, local primaries, even TV debates - without completely changing the fundamentals of our own system. But most people I know don't want a President, we work perfectly well with a parliament, prime minister and monarch.

Not so long ago, people were complaining that Tony Blair was acting like a President. Bastardising our Parliamentary system with random cherry-picked bits of US-inspired practice will not help.

Apart from the fact that shortening election cycles for MPs could create a permanent silly season of campaigning with yet more money being hosed away, it would also mean that MPs would never get anything done. Legislation and measures take time to enact and see through but 2 yrs would not allow this. Barely would MPs get in and they would be sidetracked which given comments about MPs having to think through laws more, is somewhat contradictory.

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