Recall of MPs

Written by AC Grayling on 23 July 2020.

Citizens’ Actions in relation to Recalling MPs

According to the Recall of MPs Act 2015 a successful petition by 10% of registered voters in a constituency can deprive an MP of his or her seat and trigger a by-election.

There are three routes for citizen action in this connection.

According to the 2015 Act an MP has either (1) to be convicted of an offence, or (2) has to have been found in breach of the Parliamentary Code of Conduct, to be subject to a recall petition.

So, two direct routes:
Re (1) Voters can bring a private prosecution against an MP, e.g. for accepting money from a foreign national or someone acting in the interests of a foreign power, as a first step to positioning the MP for a recall process.

Re (2) Voters can petition the Speaker of the House of Commons, or the Chairperson of the House of Commons Committee on Standards, for disciplinary action against an MP who has e.g. accepted money from a foreign national or someone acting in the interests of a foreign power. When disciplinary action is taken, the recall process can be initiated.

(2) is the simpler and most direct process.

The third route is indirect, and requires our legal bretheren to act on the citizenry’s behalf, on a crowdfunded basis.

A judicial review of the 2015 Act on the ground that by putting too high a bar to recall it does not respect the fact that an MP serves at the pleasure of voters. A sufficient moiety of voters should be able to subject an MP to the discipline of the ballot box at any point in a Parliamentary term if they jointly have cause to feel that they are not being represented as they wish, or that the MPs behaviour in his capacity or office is inimical to their interests.

This is a direct expression of voters’ democratic authority over the individual they send to Parliament to serve those interests.

NOTE that the initiation of any of these actions by itself and whether or not successful has an effect; in the present state of affairs any and all democratic action by citizens is essential.