MP recall: 73% of Lib Dem members approve of voters’ right to sack their representatives

by Stephen Tall on May 21, 2014

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKLib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

73% of Lib Dem members approve of MP recall; 19% disapprove

The government has said that voters should have a means to ‘sack’ MPs who are guilty of ‘serious wrongdoing’. It proposes to allow voters in individual constituencies to vote on whether to recall their MP – that is, to hold a by-election – if more than 10% of voters sign a petition calling for one to take place. Voters could start a recall petition if an MP had committed a crime for which they receive a prison sentence or if the House of Commons passed a vote saying they had committed serious wrongdoing and could face a recall petition. Do you approve or disapprove of these triggers for allowing voters to start a recall petition?

    32% – Strongly approve

    41% – Tend to approve

    Total approve = 73%

    6% – Neither approve nor disapprove

    13% – Tend to disapprove

    6% – Strongly disapprove

    Total disapprove = 19%

    1% – Don’t know

Almost three-quarters of Lib Dem members (73%) back MP recall – the right of voters to sack MPs who are found guilty of ‘serious wrongdoing’: just 19% disapprove. However, as you’ll see from the sample of comments below, opinion is more divided on the triggers that would allow recall to happen. A number of those saying they approve note they think the 10% of voters petition threshold is too low (20% is mentioned as a preferred proportion). Many are also unhappy about the idea of recall first being subject to a Commons vote – either because they fear a majority party might abuse the system subjectively to target opponents, or because they think the Commons has no right to be involved in the first place.

My own view is that voter recall was promised in the Coalition Agreement and should be delivered. Nick Clegg has said voters can trigger a by-election only if the House of Commons first agrees an MP is guilty of ‘serious wrongdoing’ – a commitment made to try and steer this controversial measure through parliament. Though intended to avoid vexatious attempts to jettison MPs, it would be far better to set a high threshold than to dilute recall in this way. Kudos, by the way, to Tory MP Zac Goldsmith for sticking to his guns on this with his Campaign for True Recall.

A selection of your comments…

• I agree with recall, but would have preferred the judgement to be made by an independent standards body (IPSA or whoever), not a vote of the HoC.
• 10% of voters seems too low
• 10% is too low. I would certainly approve if this was raised to at least 20%, however.It would be an excellent way of showing that MPs are responsible to their constituents (without being their delegates/mouthpieces as the threat of recall on a low percentage of the electorate would tend to make them).
• Instinctively I disagree with recall as it could lead to knee-jerk reactions to a situation. However if we do have one then it must only be for serious crimes, not just because people are angry with their MP as it will lead to MPs just doing what is politically expedient rather than what is right.
• These safeguards need to be in place, otherwise I reckon you could get 10% of any constituency to vote to recall their MP.
• Voters should be able to start a recall petition against any MP without need for trigger, although perhaps in those circumstances the threshold should be increased.
• The bar needs to be set higher. I’d suggest 20%.
• I think some objective criteria are needed as a check on the power to recall
• 10% is too low and could cause problems down the line as it could be used as a political weapon. I think it should be at least 20%.
• Hopeless and a pale shadow of what Clegg promised before he got a taste of power
• Recall should be in the hands of the voters, possibly with a higher threshold but without any let or hindrance. If they just decide they don’t like their MP so be it. We’ve seen in the last week what MPs marking their own homework leads.
• I think the ONLY trigger necessary is a suitable threshold for signatures (verified)
• he Commons shouldn’t control whether voters can recall their MP or not. If they are worried that it will be used flippantly then up the threshold triggering a by-election to, say, 15 or 20 per cent.
• No caveats should be allowed on a recall election – just a simple petition, but the threshold should be higher.
• We already have a means of getting rid of MPs. It’s called a general election. A petition mechanism would simply be exploited by minority causes to harasss MPs who disagree with them.
• There does need to be a basic floor, recall for any reason would be a nightmare.
• I’m comfortable with the criminal offence trigger, but the House of Commons say-so trigger risks being abused for party political or other reasons and is not sufficiently objective.
• This is a nonsense, we have elections and we have criminal law. We don’t need these as well.
• A petty knee-jerk reaction to the expenses scandal.
• This sounds like a sensible idea, however I believe the threshold of 10% voters is too low.
• The power of initiative should rest with voters. The proposals actually leave the recall power with other MPs. voters should be able to recall an MP for any reason of their choosing, provided they can raise a petition with more names of electors in their constituency than the MP was originally elected by. It should not be a ‘dual key’ with the first key controlled by MPs. The proposals are pathetic and represent another broken promise by our leaders and other parties.
• Having a “fair” voting system which would ensure far more seats are genuine contests would achieve much more than a recall scheme
• There would need to be effective safeguards to protect MPs from malicious/repeat recalls
• 10% is too low a figure for initiating a recall because it is a temptation for rival parties to be mischievious.
• Depending on enough evidence that they have, as a lot of time it is all here say!
• I think a lower non-political threshold than a prison sentence should enable the public to initiate a recall.
• I have no particular reasons for opposing, but I just do not like it.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with 745 responded in full – and a further 87 in part – to the latest survey, which was conducted between 16th and 22nd April.
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  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.