Is a right of recall a good electoral reform?

I’m a recall-sceptic for a simple reason. I’m a democrat.

As I wrote of Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith’s recall proposals:

The problem with Zac Goldsmith’s approach is that it allows a small minority of voters to force at least temporarily out of office an MP simply because they don’t like them. Imagine what Labour supporters could be doing year in year out to Conservative MPs at the moment, for example, needing no more reason than ‘they’re Tories, I don’t like them’.

That’s why the much more circumscribed recall plans proposed by the Liberal Democrats in Parliament are much more my cup of tea.* Yes to a right of recall when an MP is caught breaking rules, but no to the ability to abuse recall just because you don’t like their party and aren’t willing to respect the result of an election.

The petition from 38 Degrees calling for ‘real’ recall, sidesteps this issue. It calls for:

We call on you to support a recall bill that puts the power in voters hands, so that if, in between general elections, enough voters were dissatisfied enough with their MP to petition for a by-election, they could do so.

I say sidesteps, because the big questions are what’s “enough” and is “I didn’t vote for them at the last general election and still don’t like them” a good enough reason?

It’s an issue I’ll be debating further at 8pm on Tuesday night at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow (Alsh 2, The SECC – inside the secure zone). Also on the panel will be Evan Harris, Andy Silvester (The TaxPayers’ Alliance) and Laura Townshend (38 Degrees). Hashtags: #ldconf and #realrecall.

If you’re going to be in Glasgow I hope you can make it and join the debate.



* Well, mug of hot chocolate.

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