Douglas Carswell

21 MAR 2017

Give voters the right to sack MPs

Like so much of what the House of Commons does these days, yesterday's debate on MPs double-jobbing was mostly virtue signalling. That's because MPs don't like the real solution: recall elections.

In the United States, representatives can be recalled by their electorate. If enough local people sign a petition, they trigger a by-election. Voters then decide whether or not to renew their representative's mandate at the ballot box.

We could have had the same system here. In 2014, a Recall of MPs Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech.

But the title was misleading. Under the final legislation, voters can only trigger a by-election if a committee of grandees – or a court of law – has first found an MP guilty of wrongdoing. Rather than put voters in charge, the Bill let MPs act as a self-serving cartel.

Indeed, the government made sure Zac Goldsmith's amendments to the Bill – which would have led to a real right of recall – were rejected.

Now we see why. Would the former Chancellor would have taken on so many roles outside Parliament if a recall election in Tatton were a possibility?

The debate about MPs taking jobs outside Westminster in any case misses the point. The most common form of double-jobbing is the appointment of MPs as ministers. Voters should have a say on that too.

Until a century ago, they did. Prior to the Re-Election of Ministers Acts (1919 & 1926), MPs had to face ministerial by-elections to join the Cabinet. They could only become ministers with their constituents' consent.

Consent wasn't always given. Between 1895 and 1926, there were 127 ministerial by-elections. On eight occasions, the ministers-designate lost.

The way to keep MPs in check isn't to empower a toothless regulator. It's to let their constituents hold them to account.

Back to all posts

The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy

"A revolutionary text ... right up there with the Communist manifesto" - Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

Printed by Douglas Carswell of 61 Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex