Recall Powers and Direct Democracy

The power of recall is the most recent measure that has been taken to make the UK a more democratic country. But is the new system truly a more direct form of democracy or simply another false promise of power?

In early 2015 David Cameron passed a legislation enabling recall powers as he promised in the 2010 election. However the system is more complex than initially perceived. In theory, the power of recall allows the electorate to remove a MP they dislike by way of a petition. It was seen to be a remedy to unpopular MP’s and a form of direct accountability to the people. An MP who failed in their duties could simply be de-elected before their face year term had expired.

However the new system first requires a parliamentary standards committee to issue a misconduct procedure against the MP, usually on narrow financial irregularities grounds. Then and only then can a petition be signed by constituents over the course of eight weeks. This petition requires proof of an MP’s financial wrongdoing (as judged by fellow parliamentarians) or a prison sentence of more than 21 days. If 10% of the electorate sign their names then the petition is presented to a parliamentary commission who can accept or reject it. If this petition is successful the MPs seat is declared vacant and a by-election is held in which the recalled MP and others can stand.

However many view this as simply another faux power as parliament holds the rights as to whether to trigger a recall and various hurdles makes it difficult to even devise a petition as the criteria is hard to meet. The recall system is another example of how the UK’s direct democratic experiment is controlled by parliament and thus ultimately fail at achieving their goals.

Charley Gordon-Boyle

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