If politicians abondon them then public should be able to boot them out

Mark Ferguson for Labour List writes: “This morning the Independent reports that plans to introduce the right of recall for MPs has been shelved by the government. That’s somewhat unsurprising, and to be honest I actually assumed it had been done already.

This government have lumbered around doing little in the way of legislation for over a year now – if they had felt inclined to introduce a right of recall then they’d have done it by now. There’s no way either coalition party wants to be spending the year before an election on a divisive bit of legislation that half of their MPs don’t like because they’re scared of it.

Of course, back in the heady rose garden days of coalition it was all so different. We would absolutely get the right to recall our MPs, so the founding document of this government said:

“We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.”

And that should have been something that Labour could support too. Here’s what the 2010 manifesto had to say about this:

“We acted swiftly to clean up politics by creating an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to set pay and pensions for MPs, as well as their allowances. And we will take further measures to restore trust in our politics

“MPs who are found responsible for financial misconduct will be subject to a right of recall if Parliament itself has failed to act against them

“But this is only the start … we believe that further and more radical reform is imperative if we are to renew our democratic public life.

And yet today it seems that the party is rowing away from such reforms. No promises are being made. No decisions have been taken. Ed Miliband said he had a blank sheet of paper, and even though it’s been filled in as we speak, it seems right of recall isn’t on it yet.

Well if Miliband really wants to show that his “power to the people” rhetoric means something, he’ll back those campaigning for the right to recall their MPs. In fact – given the behaviour of some Labour MPs (Joyce and MacShane being amongst the most recent examples), we as a party should be calling for recall at least as loudly as others, else we look like we’re defending miscreants on our own side.

But there’s a far more compelling argument for wanting to see the right of recall than just weeding out the MPs who grossly overstep the mark. The theorist Joseph Schumpeter argued that representative democracy was flawed, because it only really gave power to the people on Election Day. After that, the power was in the hands of the politicians. Never did that feel more prescient than in 2010 when the Lib Dems – who many voted for in good faith – began ripping up their manifesto like a cheap napkin.

If the politicians can change their mind and abandon those who are supposed to give them legitimacy, then the public should be able to boot them out without having to wait five long years to do so. That’s more democratic, and it places power in the hands of the people.

What’s not to like, eh Ed?” (http://labourlist.org/2014/02/if-miliband-wants-power-to-the-people-hell-give-them-the-power-to-recall-mps/)

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