With a recall referendum, we could all be heroes

What if, via an act of parliament, the British electorate could force a recall referendum after 24 months of governance if 51% of the population signed a petition calling for it?

Share
Related Topics

On Tuesday, David Bowie marked his 66 years on the planet by asking us all “where are we now?” In a political sense this is an extremely pertinent question, not least because the coalition used the very same day to mark 66 years since the introduction of the Retail Prices Index - the inflation indicator based on the cost to British people of a basket of goods and services – by ignoring its use as a measure of the real cost of living, and by extension its critical purpose as a marker of the true value of benefits paid to the poorest.

Let’s hope none of those skivers whose incomes have been cut in real terms use trains to travel to work or job interviews; fare rises in 2013 again outstripped RPI, whereas benefits paid to them will now fall well beneath it.

The week had of course started off hunky dory; Clegg and Cameron awarded themselves full marks for their work to date. Rather than commencing 2013 by attempting to unite the population behind what must be done in difficult times, they pointedly decided to remind us all of a) their determination to see through what must be done to us, and more importantly b) our utter inability to do anything about it, given that for the first time they’ve gone to the trouble of putting a full 5 year electoral term into law.

Quagmire

In Westminster, this never ending story seems to be a quagmire where party-political calculations and the archaic whipping system override the best interests of the population. As if the absolute assurance of a further 2 and a half years of Cameron and the man who sold the world were not enough, the only party of opposition likely to replace them voted against the benefit cap, yet refused to reverse it if they are elected; a kind of bizarre push me-pull you policy sideshow to the main event.

So given that Labour - on a matter of fundamental importance to millions - would do little different or at least not reverse the coalition incisions; given the consistent fashion for the party of opposition to pledge allegiance to the incumbent’s future spending plans if elected (as pre-1997 Labour and pre-2010 Conservative) thus offering the voter little in the way of meaningful choice; and given we now perceive a new political landscape where the core values of any party are open for trade-off and dilution in the name of power and placating the neurotic demands of the diamond dogs that run the square mile, a new tension and check is required to ensure government does not deviate wildly from the will of a majority of the population.

Back in the days when the Liberal Democrats were not, em, under pressure, Clegg supported the notion of MP recall; irrespective of the point in the electoral cycle, it would give power to a majority of citizens to remove their MP if they feel he or she is not representing their best interests, or have reneged on what they pledged to do. Why not go further and start a debate on absolute recall of government?

The smugness on show in Downing St on Monday conveyed the indifference of the PM and his deputy to the appalling poll ratings of both colours; a definite national reflection of the unpopularity of their joint policies and direction. Oh, it’s just “mid-term” they jest, it happens to every party. But what if mid-term was not a time honoured opportunity to publicly patronise and belittle the views of those that appoint you, but the opening up of a critical phase whereby they could actually remove you from office?

What if, via an act of parliament, the British electorate could force a recall referendum after 24 months of governance if 51% of the population signed a petition calling for it, thus forcing a general election on the people’s terms, rather than on the governments?

Radical

It may sound radical, but if there is not a cigarette paper between the main parties in terms of what they’ll do with our money and if – as with New Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives – parties renege on manifesto pledges/introduce new policies unmentioned in their manifesto with monotonous, outrageous regularity (because they are utterly, absolutely secure within their 4/5 year capsule) what other potent option does the electorate have?

There were 150 recall elections in the United States in 2011; a major Canadian province operates full (including executive) recall and the idea deserves a serious hearing here too.

It would introduce dynamism to our democracy, empowering those who bother to vote (many of whom feel the process makes little difference) and impose an unprecedented honesty and accountability upon the operations of our political leaders.

A democratic reminder to the most powerful that any strategic deviation from what they proposed to voters, or maladministration of public money during their first 2 years in Whitehall will mean ashes to ashes for their office is a powerful check deserving serious exploration.

React Now

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

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style