Friday, February 29, 2008

The 2005 Tory Intake Begins to Impose Itself

The 52 strong 2005 intake of Conservative MPs constitutes more than a quarter of the Parliamentary Party. On occasion they have acted in concert to achieve an aim. Today we have another example of that in the letters page of the Daily Telegraph, where 27 members of the 2005 intake make a radical suggestion for recall elections, along the lines of the Californian system. As I say in my Telegraph column today, it is inconceivable that this letter was written without the explicit consent of the Party leadership. This morning I have spoken to a senior party source who tells me not only did the leadership consent to it, they actively encouraged it. I suspect they even instigated it. It's clearly designed to send a message to the old guard of Tory MPs. The message is this. "You've had your day, things are going to be very different now. We are not going to be tarnished by your actions". Here's the letter.
Sir - At a time when trust in politicians continues to be diminished, there is an urgent need to look again at the sanctions available when an MP has been found to have behaved improperly.

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee is able to suspend an MP, but many members of the public feel frustration that, save for very limited circumstances, an MP disciplined by the Commons authorities will not be answerable to his constituents until a general election is called and, therefore, can retain his position and salary for some years.

As Conservative MPs all elected for the first time in 2005, we recognise that we are accountable to our electorate and, consequently, we do not think that a parliamentary committee should have the discretion to expel an MP. However, we do think that consideration should be given to creating a recall mechanism, similar to that used in some US states, to enable constituents to vote on whether they remove their MP during the course of a Parliament.

For example, in California in 2003, a petition was organised calling for the recall of the governor, Gray Davis. Once it was established that a sufficient number of electors had signed the petition, a ballot was held on whether Davis should be recalled. That ballot succeeded, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him.

We would want safeguards to be put in place to ensure that this mechanism was not abused, such as requiring a high percentage of registered voters in a constituency to petition for a recall ballot, or only permitting a recall ballot when the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee has recommended it as a sanction.

None the less, a mechanism of this sort used in exceptional circumstances would increase MPs' accountability, address some of the frustration felt by a disenchanted public and help restore trust in our democratic institutions.

David Gauke MP, Ben Wallace MP, Greg Hands MP, Ed Vaizey MP, Brooks Newmark MP, Richard Benyon MP, Peter Bone MP, James Brokenshire MP, David Burrowes MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Greg Clark MP, Philip Dunne MP, Tobias Ellwood MP, Stephen Hammond MP, Philip Hollobone MP, Stuart Jackson MP, Mark Lancaster MP, Anne Main MP, Maria Miller MP, Anne Milton MP, Mike Penning MP, John Penrose MP, Lee Scott MP, Graham Stuart MP, Rob Wilson MP, Stephen Crabb MP, David Jones MP


Ralph said...

You would need a ban on political parties directly or indirectly organising recalls, and fines to cover the cost of the election if they break it.

Patrick said...


And this should apply not just for issues of probity for issues of betrayal or rubbish performance too.

For example if you voted on the understanding that your MP was supportive of a referendum but then they voted otherwise in Parliament it would be possible to 'unelect' them.

The risk of having snouts removed forcibly from the trough by grumpy electors would be fabulous.

Anonymous said...

This lot are headline bagging - just like Brown.

Anonymous said...

brilliant idea

Anonymous said...

There are a number of names not on the list. I hope they will identify themselves as supporters of the proposal. The public will want to know.

Richard said...

This is displacement activity that does not even begin to address the real malaise.

Alex said...

Good idea. What do the Standards and Privileges Committee think about it?

Anonymous said...

I thought Tories despised gimmicks.

Newmania said...

Yes I ,for once agree with the troll . I thought we did not do Blairy gimmicks . Seems like we do Blairy tax and spend and Blairy gimmicks as well.

This is all going badly wrong

Anonymous said...

MPs wanting to be more accountable doesn't strike me as a gimmick. I'm very cynical so I can usually smell them.

Anonymous said...

This is a good idea? Much though I despise Tony Blair AND Gordon Brown, are you suggesting that a serving Prime Minister be faced with possible unseating in this way?

How does an MP with a nice safe majority compare to one in a marginal? This is one of the things wrong with our current system anyway without making it worse.

There is no comparison with our parliamentary democracy and the 'presidential' nature of US governorships.

A 'good idea'? many in your readership are clearly losing their marbles and you too Mr Dale show increasing signes of coming ever so slightly unhingred.

Anonymous said...

I was fully persuaded until I read the words Arnold Schwarzenegger.......

Daily Referendum said...

Confused Voter,

Being able to get rid of MPs who do not perform to their contituents' standards is a gimmick?

Newmania said...

Yes I ,for once agree with the troll , silly irrelevant posturing together with over feeding the already bloated state is pure Blair

""The creatures outside looked from pig to man,and from man to pig, and from pig to man again;but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Tapestry said...

First case of turkeys voting for Christmas witnessed since Labour MPs abandoned their manifesto referendum promise.

Anonymous said...

MPs wanting to be more accountable doesn't strike me as a gimmick. I'm very cynical so I can usually smell them.

I'm very cynical, and your antennae aren't working; this is a gimmick. It will be designed in such a way that it lends even more power to the party and even less to the electorate.* You see if it isn't. If I turn out to be wrong, I will publicly apologise. And I hate apologising.


*how, you might ask, could this be done? Well, for years and years whips would ensure that they knew who had been a naughty boy and sometimes that information would - shock horror - give them an edge in negotiation. Needless to say, it was often important to make sure the press didn't get it. Under this proposed new system, they would have even more power since not only would things that were actually illegal or obviously immoral be important, but a simple offer to reveal information to the electors about certain views privately expressed, or 'remind' them which way someone had voted or similar would have the same effect. You see if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Open primaries would solve the problem of useless or corrupt MPs without the divisiveness of a recall mechanism.

Anonymous said...

if cameron had a majority of 6 after the next election, do you think this idea would ever see the light of day? silly boys and girls...

Anonymous said...

If the Libs had done this you would have slagged them off for it!

strapworld said...


wouldn't it be a vote for sensible government if Cameron, having asked Brown to allow his MP's to vote the way they wish on a EU referendum, was to announce that he was doing away with the Whips Office. All his MP's know what they were elected upon and they were free to vote as they wish.

God that would be a major blow for Democracy!

Anonymous said...

There's a better way of selecting decent MPs from within a Party, and which gives the voter choice- the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. When will you Tories not twig?

David Lindsay said...

The House can already expel a Member, and it is not the fault of the rest of us if it never does so in practice.

Who is to pay for these by-elections? And why should a House of Commons Committee have the power to impose one on a constituency? That last would not in fact be a recall at all.

Anonymous said...


i think it used to be "man" and then it was "dude" (stopped circa 2004) and I think these days it's "dog".

gotta keep up.

Otherwise you won't win the next election. Izzit.

hatfield girl said...

Smash the System was on all the banners as the Long March through the institutions began half a century ago.

The system can still deliver us from them all should we ever again achieve access to it.

There are no terms strong enough to condemn electoral system fiddling.

What side, or substance, are these people on?

Richard Edwards said...

The recall provisions in California are there to act as a check on the executive and to ensure accountability. The governor is one branch of government, and a most powerful one. If the state legislature is unable to hold him to account then the people must have a way of re-asserting their sovereignty. It has to be seen in that context.

The proposal in the letter is not about checks and balances. If it is intended to be an instrument to ensure ethical conduct then it is a blunt and dangerous one. Imagine the 92 Parliament with a dwindling majority. No doubt a significant number of electors in Tatton for example would have been pressed into supporting a motion against Neil Hamilton. With a small majority a change of government might occur. This would be wholly alien to our traditions.

If MPs want to clean up their act - and they must because the anger and contempt for them is growing daily - then they must abide by the same standards as the rest of us: Transparency and honest accountability. For instance they all could make full disclosure on their web sites of every penny spent and every person hired now. A trite point you might think. But openness etc can be achieved without resorting to constitutional jerry building.

Beta minus I am afraid.

Anonymous said...

Good idea. But like most things that may seem like good ideas. The DEVIL is in the detail. Some have commented on the potential devils already.

Surly there are more simpler cheaper and more effective ways to make British MPs act like honest citizens for once, in our entire political history?

Off the top of my head what about this one.

MPS should be subject to the same laws as everyone else. (Shock horror)

MPs must be selected, completely free from any interference from the top brass, by the constituency party.

(Shock horror followed by mass panic in the Whips Offices)

MPs wages, terms and conditions should be payed for and set by, in advance, by the constituency party.

( Shock horror, total panic just about everywhere in parliament, followed by all The Whips Offices having a collective fatal heart attack )

You see; very simple, extremely fair, as cheap as chips, and wholly democratic.

If anyone can shoot any holes in my idea I would very much like to see them.

ATLAS shrugged but in his heart knew for certain, nobody would notice.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean that if a party, lets, for the sake of argument call them Labour & LibDims, were to break an election promise on a constitutional matter like, say, a consitution, they could find their MPS having to face the electorate over it.

Nice idea but I don't see the government adopting it.