We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Clause 1 — How an MP becomes subject to a recall petition process

Part of Bill Presented — International Trade Agreements (Scrutiny) – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 27th October 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 8:00 pm, 27th October 2014

If there is to be an additional number of days, those cannot be carried over from one Session or some of us may well be in trouble or face the 20 days. I take the straightforward view that this is an evolving piece of legislation, and I am grateful—the Committee will not often hear this—for how Front Benchers have tried to get a dialogue going to hone the legislation to make it effective. I do not know—who am I to speak for the general public?—but from what I understand, I do not think those who have been campaigning for the right of recall for some time will be satisfied either with what the Government are proposing or with the Opposition amendments. I think the public want something much more direct on the ability to recall an MP not just for misconduct or wrongdoing, but because they have said or done something that is so outwith the opinion of their constituents, or so obnoxious, that people are willing to campaign for their recall.

I do not find that a problem. Democracy is a rough old trade at times. We live and die by the sword and the votes. On a number of occasions since I have been in the House, elements within my electorate would have sought a right of recall because of my views on Ireland—I chaired the Guildford Four campaign for a number of years—or, at one point in time, because of my views on the life expectancy of Mrs Thatcher. They should have that right. They should be able to bring together fellow constituents to suggest that something is so appalling that a Member of Parliament should be brought before the court of the electorate once again.

The fundamental issue is the one that my hon. Friend Mr Jones raised. How do we get that equivalence of influence or power? I understand his argument that one newspaper with vast amounts of resources could campaign against an MP. The Sun had a pop at me at one point in time but, when that occurred, my popularity went up and my majority increased—that has happened to others. He makes a valid point that that might be different if there is a by-election threat or recall outside a general election.

We need further thought on the right of reply, which Anne Marie Morris mentioned. How can that be strengthened in terms of both the statements that are made and the media? That throws up the issue of media ownership, which is a wider debate. We will be forced to come back to that and other issues at a later stage, but my view is that the electorate are not just demanding the right of reply, and there will be a reaction if we do not give them a right of recall beyond the proposed one.

Some people are not happy with the right of recall campaign by 38 Degrees. It was effective not because it was backed by big finance or a national newspaper, but because it was a grass-roots campaign. E-mails coming in their hundreds can be annoying to some MPs, but they demonstrate the vibrancy of our democracy and people’s interest.

Politics has changed in this country. People’s views are no longer shaped solely by the newspaper they read or by the influence of the magnates who own large sections of the media. We are witnessing a lot more people power. People are able to influence individual campaigns and therefore, rightly, to influence MPs’ views. My hon. Friend Geraint Davies was anxious about individual campaigns—he mentioned a planning proposal for the beach. I welcome those campaigns. I welcome people’s ability to mobilise and express their views, no matter how forcefully. I find that, when I explain to campaigners that I cannot support them, I win their respect. I am sure the situation is the same in his constituency on most occasions.