Mercer is another urgent reminder - we need a recall law. And soon

How can we trust in politics when discredited MPs are allowed to keep their seats?

Share

During the MP expenses scandal of 2009 I experienced first hand what it was like to have an MP caught up at the centre of it. Our local MP of the time, Andrew MacKay, had been accused of dodgy dealings regarding how he had designated their second homes for claiming purposes.

On 22nd May 2009 there was a very well attended public meeting which MacKay had called where his constituents were able to question him and express their feelings about what he had done. It remains one of the most extraordinary political events I have ever attended. The feeling in the meeting was overwhelmingly of anger even amongst members of MacKay's own local constituency party.

Despite the fact that he tried to put a positive spin on the meeting to the media afterwards it was abundantly clear to me as I wrote at the time that he would have to stand down as an MP as indeed he did the next day.

Well actually, he almost stood down. What MacKay announced was that he would stand down at the next general election. So that meant that for almost a year myself and my fellow Bracknell constituents were going to have to endure an MP who had manifestly demonstrated their unfitness for public office and there was nothing we could do about it. He was not alone of course. There were dozens of MPs who were guilty of expenses excesses and most of them remained in their seats until 2010.

Not long after this episode politicians of all parties started talking about the potential to bring in a "parliamentary recall" law. This would mean that once a certain threshold of petitioners within a constituency had been reached a recall election could be triggered. It would certainly have enabled us in Bracknell to have dealt with our errant MP. The proposals found their way into manifestos and such a measure was included in the coalition agreement in 2010.

Then nothing. No legislation, no measures brought forward, nothing in the most recent Queen's Speech. We are more than three years into this government and the ability for us to be able to recall MPs is clearly considered a very, very low priority.

Last week the Conservative MP Patrick Mercer resigned the Conservative whip due to allegations that he had lobbied on behalf of a company for money. And in a pattern familiar to students of the 2009 scandal he also announced he would be standing down as an MP at the next general election.

So this means that if the allegations turn out to be correct, Mercer's constituents in Newark will have to put up with having an MP whose standards have fallen way below those expected of our elected representatives and yet again they can do nothing about it.

This is simply not good enough. Our political representatives have never been held in lower esteem. I often find myself trying to persuade friends and colleagues who are not interested in politics that most MPs are in it to help and for the greater good but when scandals like this blow up and they are then allowed to cling on to their seats earning tens of thousands of pounds in the process I find it impossible to justify.

We need a recall law, immediately. There is always some space in each legislative session for measures that were not signalled in advance by Her Majesty. Now is the time for such a law to be brought forward.

Our political system cannot hope to recover from the various scandals it has suffered in recent years unless and until the voters have the right to kick errant MPs out of office. Not "at the next general election" but immediately if they see fit.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web developer (C#, MVC4, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Jquery)

£30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Senior Automation QA Engineer (Java, Selenium WebDriver, Agile)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...

Web developer (C#.NET, ASP.NET, MVC3/4, HTML5, CSS3, JAVASCRIPT

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

ETL Developer (SQL, C#, VBA, Finance, Risk, Hybrid, RDBMS, Jas

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: ETL Deve...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
At the time of the investigation Patrick Foster published a statement on Twitter, denouncing the “unnecessarily heavy-handed police investigation”  

Long-term bail allows lazy police and prosecutors to leave cases to gather dust

Oliver Wright
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment