Recall Bill: This is not democracy, it's an incitement to malice and short-termism

We already have a recall power in the British constitution. It is called a general election

Share

Good idea.

Give the people the power to “recall” their MP, goes the idiot cry of those who would appease the lowest common denigrators of politics. Zac Goldsmith and Douglas Carswell, Conservative MPs who see themselves as tribunes of the new politics, complain that the Recall Bill in the Queen’s Speech is a feeble and wretched thing.

How right they are. It is feeble-minded and wretched cowardice to give in to the mob mentality of people who have no time for democracy. The Government should not be trying to fob them off with a milksop Recall Bill that pretends to give the antis what they want and which will satisfy no one.

But it is better to have a fudged Bill that “allows MPs to mark their own homework”, as the Goldsmith-Carswells allege, than to have the kind of Recall Bill that is demanded by the Committee of Public Safety. They want to give the voters in a constituency the right to petition for a by-election, which would have to be granted if supported by 20 per cent of those on the electoral roll.

Nick Clegg, who is responsible for constitutional reform, a responsibility which consists largely of coming to realise too late that easy promises made in opposition would be harmful if enacted in law, has said, insincerely, “Oh, yes, I totally agree,” and inserted an extra test in the Bill. This means the by-election would not be triggered unless a committee of MPs agrees that the conduct of the MP concerned was very, very bad. Naturally, his insincerity discredits the Bill and the invention of extra conditions makes the Government look as if it is standing in the way of the legitimate demands of democrats.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and Clegg should have the courage to make the argument out in the open. A Goldsmith-Carwell recall power is fundamentally undemocratic. It would allow the political opponents of any MP to try to re-run their election continuously until they achieve their desired result.

As soon as the general election is over, the losing party in marginal constituencies would look for excuses to start to collect signatures demanding the “recall” of the MP. In any closely-fought contest, 20 per cent would be an easy target to reach. If the MP is a member of a governing party, a by-election would be used as the chance for a protest vote against whatever the government was doing at the time. This is not democracy, it is a playground for professional politicians and an incitement to malice and short-termism.

We already have a recall power in the British constitution. It is called a general election. If people want to get rid of Maria Miller or Patrick Mercer (oh, he’s gone), that is their chance. That is democracy. That this chance won’t come until next year, however, is undesirable. Five years as the normal minimum is too long. The Fixed-Term Parliament Act ought to be the target of the so-called democratic reformers. That is Clegg’s fault too, although the last-minute decision during coalition talks to change the fixed term from four years to five was George Osborne’s idea.

Goldsmith and Carswell should concentrate on either scrapping fixed-term parliaments or on restoring the term to four years.

React Now

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

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - Eciting new Role

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Fist bumps will never replace the handshake - we're just not cool enough

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on