Unlock Democracy launches 'real recall' for MPs report

By staff writers
October 11, 2014

As the UK parliament prepares to debate the government’s plans for recall, political reform group Unlock Democracy has published a report recommending that voters, not a parliamentary committee, be given the power to recall their MP.

The report, 'Real Recall: a blueprint for recall in the UK', uses international experience of recall to illustrate how it could work in the UK.

Under the Westminster government’s proposals, a committee of MPs must decide that one of their number is guilty of “serious wrongdoing” before a recall can take place.

These plans will neither empower voters nor rebuild public confidence in Parliament, says Unlock Democracy. The report recommends that voters be given the power to vote to recall their MP for any reason.

The report addresses how recall would work in a party-based system like Westminster, examining case studies where recall would strengthen the individual accountability of MPs without compromising the collective accountability of a government at the ballot box. These include misconduct, failure to represent constituents, crossing the floor and breaking electoral promises.

The report recommends a three stage recall process:
1. Recall petition: recall supporters must gather the signatures of 20 per cent of voters registered in the constituency in 90 days
2. Recall referendum: a successful petition triggers a referendum, where a simple majority recalls the MP
3. By-election: a successful referendum vacates the MP’s seat and a by-election is held to replace them

Commenting on the launch of the report, Alexandra Runswick, director of Unlock Democracy, said: “After the expenses scandal, the government promised to give voters the power to recall their MP, but their proposals shut the public out of the process. They have designed a system so restrictive that it is almost certain never to be used. Once again the government has raised expectations of democratic reform and once again they have failed to deliver.

"This report shows that there is an alternative, real recall, which makes MPs individually accountable to voters. Recall would act as a safety valve, empowering voters when a majority have lost faith in their MP and reinforcing the link between an MP and their constituents.

"We call on MPs to trust voters and support real recall," she concluded.

* Real Recall: a blueprint for recall in the UK (*.PDF document): http://unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/-/publications/Real_Recall.pdf


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