Give people power to sack corrupt politicians, urges PM

Party leaders spell out their rival plans to revive Parliament and politics in wake of expenses scandal
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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown today supports the public being given the power to remove corrupt and incompetent MPs, councillors and public servants from office.

Writing in The Independent, the leaders of the three major political parties set out their blueprints for rejuvenating Britain's political system following the MPs' expenses scandal.

The Prime Minister vows to "put more power where it belongs – in the people's hands", and gives his backing to granting dissatisfied voters the power of "recall" over their political representatives – when elections can be re-run if enough local people demand so.

He discloses that he will shortly be talking about "how by recall, redress and better representations all local people can have far more influence on local budgets and local decisions, from policing to schooling".

The power was most famously used when a ballot of Californians forced the removal of Gray Davis as state governor. Supporters concede that its use would have to be strictly limited to prevent MPs or councillors falling victim simply to well-run campaigns, but the controversial idea is being seriously examined by the Government. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, yesterday agreed that the principle of recall "should be looked at".

Also writing in The Independent, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, says that politicians have a "once in a generation" opportunity to rebuild trust with the voters, while Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, demands a "revolution" in public life.

In his article, Mr Brown insists: "There is no option I will not consider if it redistributes power. What has always been clear to me is that we must look at new ways in which the political elites can be made accountable to serve more effectively the single most important person in our democracy – the citizen."

The Prime Minister says he has been "angered and appalled" by the disclosures and promises tough action against "wrong-doing".

He writes: "The recent controversies crystallise a long-gestating problem of disengagement between the British public and those who serve them as elected representatives."

Mr Cameron says his party's central objective would be the "most radical redistribution of power this country has ever seen". He sets out plans to reinvigorate Parliament, limit the power of the prime minister and end the "culture of sofa government". The Tory leader said he would also "look seriously" at ending the right of the prime minister to choose the timing of an election by introducing fixed-term parliaments.

Mr Clegg also calls for voters to get the power to sack MPs guilty of wrong-doing and for an end to the "anachronism" of the House of Lords. He protests that an electoral system that gave Labour a large majority in 2005 on a 22 per cent share of the vote effectively disenfranchises millions of people. "Such a system, where so much power depends on the support of so few people, will always breed secrecy and arrogance. It must be changed, and a voting system introduced that puts power into everyone's hands," he says.

With constitutional reform soaring up the political agenda, Mr Straw has called cross-party talks on rebuilding Parliament's credibility. They are due to begin within the next two months. The discussions will examine ways of giving greater power to MPs.

Ideas being discussed will be greater scrutiny of contentious legislation, more independence for select committees and examining ways in which the voters can trigger debates in the House of Commons.

Mr Straw also yesterday signalled his likely support for fixed-term parliaments. "Personally I think there are advantages in this... subject to circumstances in which the government lost its majority. It's certainly a consideration," he told the BBC. The shadow Business Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, who chaired Mr Cameron's democracy task force, said it was important that proposals for a fixed-term parliament included clauses to get rid of dysfunctional governments.

He told Channel 4 News: "It's a good case at the moment because this parliament's dead and ought to be brought to an end now." He added: "I would be in favour of fixed terms, so long as you had some let-out that enables you to get rid of a parliament which is dead and can't form a government."

Two cabinet ministers – the Health Secretary Alan Johnson and the Universities Secretary John Denham – have called for a referendum on electoral reform at the next election. Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, has suggested that the Commons procedures should be modernised.

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