Public should have recall system for politicians

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The poet John Lydgate, and later President Lincoln, famously said: ‘ can’t please all of the people all of the time’. From the off I have tried to focus my work on what were the concerns of my electorate.

When I have had to react to events, the closure of G5 ward at the QA, the trails of PFC and the current challenge of the dockyard most spring to mind, I have worked to achieve the outcome that the public desired.

But even with this focus I am aware that some will be wishing I had done something different, or voted a different way on a particular issue. These are normal disagreements, and even the most fanatical opponent understands that an MP has to use their judgment, to do what they think is right and explain themselves.

An MP’s term in office is now set at five years - long enough to have proved their mettle and achieved something for their communities, on which they can be judged at the election.

But what happens if during those five years the MP behaves in a manner which seriously undermines their ability to represent their constituents, or is guilty of serious wrong-doing but the punishment falls short of a custodial sentence?

Unless the MP ended up in the clink, the constituency is stuck with them until the next election.

I had hoped that in this Parliament we would have introduced a mechanism to enable the electorate to jettison an MP who is guilty of serious wrong-doing.

Critics of ‘recall,’ as it is known, point to the political shenanigans that have seen the Standards Board inundated with trivial or bogus referrals, and claim that recall would be similarly abused. I think the public would only use a recall mechanism in cases of serious wrong-doing, not because they find themselves at odds with their MP on an issue of principle.

A form of recall for members of the Commons, and rules to prevent members of the House of Lords convicted of a crime keeping their seat, are reforms we should pursue.