PM ‘willing to move’ on recall plan


Published: Sunday 19th October 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron is willing to “move considerably” on strengthening the ability of constituents to sack errant MPs, a Tory campaigner on the issue said.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said the legislation produced by the Government, which will face its first Commons test on Tuesday, was a power of recall “in name only”.

Mr Goldsmith, who is attempting to amend the Government’s bill, said he believed Conservative MPs would be allowed a free vote on the issue.

He said the Recall of MPs Bill championed by Nick Clegg was so narrowly drawn it was “almost the exact opposite” of a true power of recall.

” Anyone who understands what recall is, it’s a very simple process. If enough people sign a petition in a constituency they earn the right to have a referendum, do they want to remove their MP or not,” he said.

“The Government Bill, the Clegg Bill if I can call it that, is almost the exact opposite so you will be able to remove your MP under the Clegg Bill but only with the permission of the House so the institution that this is supposed to be helping people hold to account will still be in charge, it gets to decide who qualifies for recall.”

The legislation provides for a recall petition to be triggered if an MP is sentenced to a prison term or is suspended from the House for at least 21 sitting days.

The petition will be open for eight weeks and if at the end of that period at least 10% of eligible electors have signed it the seat is declared vacant, triggering a by-election.

But Mr Goldsmith has pushed to give constituents more power, with a rival plan which can see MPs being recalled if 5% of voters in a constituency sign a “notice of intent to recall” and 20% then sign a “recall petition”.

He told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme that the 20% threshold, which would involve people having to physically sign a petition, was high enough to prevent “vexatious abuse … but low enough to make it actually possible so if an MP really lets the constituents down, profoundly lets them down, it should be possible to remove them”.

He added: ” The mad thing is at the moment that I could, the day after the next election if I’m lucky enough to be re-elected, I could go off on holiday for five years without breaking a single rule.

“I could switch to the BNP, I could break every promise I made, I could do any of these things without qualifying for recall under the Clegg proposals and without being open to any kind of reprimand in the current system.”

Ukip’s only MP Douglas Carswell – a former Tory – challenged the Prime Minister about the issue in the Commons last week, and Mr Goldsmith said disillusionment with Westminster politicians had been a key part in the rise of Nigel Farage’s party.

He said: ” I am really grateful that the new Chief Whip (Michael Gove) seems to understand, more than any of his predecessors in my view that the Ukip factor is not about Europe, it’s not about immigration, it’s not about individual policies, it’s about the sense that the political elite if you can call it that has become so remote that it needs a spanking, it needs a slap and Ukip is an option there, the Green Party is an option there but the mainstream parties are just operating as a block that ignores the voters, that’s become so remote there is no point engaging with it.

“He gets that and I believe – I don’t know this and nothing has been formally announced – but I believe when it comes to the debate on the recall of members, the Conservative Party at least will be offering a free vote, that’s the understanding I have and I think that’s a great indication that things are changing.

“I thought the Prime Minister’s answer to Douglas Carswell also indicated a willingness to really move considerably on th is issue so it’s good.”

Mr Cameron told Mr Carswell in the Commons that the powers in the Bill were the “minimum acceptable” and promised to look carefully at any amendments,

“I think there are a lot of very good arguments to be had about how we can go further,” he said.

Mr Goldsmith, whose father Sir James Goldsmith formed the Eurosceptic Referendum Party to fight the 1997 election, said he was not attracted to Ukip but could see why people turned to it.

But he said it would be a mistake for the Tories to try to ape their policies.

“I can understand why people are turning to these outsider parties, these challengers from the outside,” he said.

“At one point the Lib Dems would have been that party, they are not any longer so it’s Greens, it’s Ukip and so on, I can understand why people are doing that.

“I think the big mistake that we could make would be to try and ape their policies in order to bring those people back because it’s not about what we’re saying, it’s about the fact that people don’t believe what we’re saying, it’s about authenticity.”

Published: Sunday 19th October 2014 by The News Editor

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