Right to recall MPs?

The long overdue resignation of Denis MacShane has put some focus back on the issue of the right of voters to recall their MP.

If he had not resigned the people of Rotherham could have been without an MP for a year if he had been barred from the Commons. In Scotland, we have the similar and continued embarrassment of the ‘Honourable’ member for Falkirk.

I was reminded in a recent blog by Mark Ferguson on Labour List that the ConDem coalition agreement includes a section on the ‘Power of Recall’. It says that the government would bring forward “early legislation” on the matter:

“We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.”

Even by ConDem standards two and a half years later is hardly ‘early’, and of  course there is no sign of this proposal coming forward. Perhaps the PM has decided that he has enough difficulties with his back benchers. So we still have a situation where MPs can remain indefinitely even if they have manifestly lost the confidence of parliament, their constituents and their party.

As Mark Ferguson has suggested, “There’s a gap in the government’s legislative agenda where the boundary review and Lords Reform used to be – the government should try filling it with the “right to recall”, and any MP who opposes it can make their case. But the public will be watching.”

There is of course no reason why the idea should be limited to MPs. Something for the next Scottish Policy Forum to consider.