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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there