Farron: “No excuse for David Cameron to block recall of MPs but he has done”

The Guardian reports that the proposal to recall MPs who have committed serious wrongdoing has been blocked by David Cameron against the wishes of Nick Clegg.

A Lib Dem source said news that the legislation had been dropped was broken to the party’s MPs at a meeting on Tuesday. “Tom Brake, the deputy leader of the house, stood up and told MPs it was off the agenda. It seems that the Tories have argued that there is too much to deal with and something had to give. But it didn’t wash: they are pandering to their backbenchers,” he said.

Under the plans, MPs could face a recall motion if they had been sentenced to prison or judged guilty of serious wrongdoing by the House of Commons standards and privileges committee.

Party President went on the Today Programme to talk about this decision. He confirmed that Nick Clegg wanted it in the Queen’s Speech, but David Cameron blocked it. He said:

It seems very wrong to me that an MP can be in the Parliament for five years and not be held to account for wrongdoing within that period.

There’s no obvious excuse or good reason for David Cameron to block that Bill but that is what he has done.

It looks as though MPs are running scared of their electorate. We should never be scared of our electorate. We should always believe that we have our positions as a temporary offering, a position that we’re given by voters for a period of time to serve them, and that it’s something that they can take away. They can obviously take it away at an election, but there should also be a process as some other countries have where an MP can be recalled and forced to stand before them in a by-election. It looks like MPs are trying to protect themselves from them and that’s not on.

You can listen to his interview here from around 2 hours and 33 minutes in.

This is yet another blow to constitutional reform delivered by one or other of the two conservative parties. The only real success has been fixed term parliaments. It’s disappointing to see recall, which was a bit of a no-brainer, go the same way as Lords Reform and cleaning up party funding.

If you are in any doubt about why such a law is necessary, look no further than its poster boy, Bill Walker. The Dunfermline MSP resigned eventually after his conviction for violent behaviour to 3 wives and a stepdaughter and is currently serving a year long prison sentence. He couldn’t, though, have been forced to face his voters even despite his conviction. He could have brazened out the remaining two and a half years of his term.

Voters will at least know who has been making the effort to enact political change and who has not.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • This is appalling. As we have voted for the Coalition Agreement the Lib Dems in Government have no authority not to bring this forward. I hope a backbencher does. I also hope we tell the Tories to get lost each and every time they bring something forward which isn’t in the coalition agreement (unless we naturally support it) until this is dealt with.

  • John trundle 14th Feb '14 - 1:57pm

    Zac Goldsmith reporting that the bill was dropped as Nick Clegg had drafted the bill to make MP’s accountable to Westminster and not to the electorate as originally planned in Goldsmith’s proposal.
    Truth? Because this is beginning to sound like poorly executed spin.

  • Linda Forbes 14th Feb '14 - 2:44pm

    Wonder why the public doesn’t trust politicians? Seems Parliament and its MPs are scared of being held to account.

    The farce that passes for democracy in the UK where the Government is decided by a few swing seats at each General Election gets worse. Voters feel they are dispensible for all the influence they have (and the powers-that-be seem happy for it to remain so). The miserable turnout at yesterday’s by-election seems to confirm this.

  • A quick message to John trundle 14th Feb ’14 – 1:57pm
    Zac Goldsmith ……………..The man who denies that he bought his seat in parliament using the millions he inherited from his father, the appalling James Goldsmith, is not somebody that everyone would regard as a reliable source.

  • Could we at least get an amendment to the Scotland Act through to allow the change for Holyrood? All it would need to do would be to pass the power to decide on this to the Scottish Parliament (therefore not being contentious and not taking up much time on the Government schedule), and let Holyrood decide on how to proceed – creating a model for Westminster in the future.

  • Another policy that is Nick Clegg’s charge as Minister which has fallen on it’s backside.

    Whether the truth is that Cameron blocked this or not is entirely missing the point.

    From the very beginning Liberal Democrats in Ministerial positions within this coalition have been set up to look incompetent and weak.

    I will repeat what I have said before. The Tories have played an absolute blinder and out smarted and outmaneuvered the Liberal Democrats every time, weakening their reputation for the next election.

    1st we saw Vince Cable as Business secretary having to argue the case for a rise in tuition fee’s and vote for a policy that deep down neither he nor the party agreed with .

    2nd Chris Huhne Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change having to defend the U-Turn on Nuclear Power.

    3rd Nick Clegg Lord President of the Council (with special responsibility for political and constitutional reform)

    3 of the major policy areas that Liberal Democrats have championed have all been a disaster for the image of the party.

    The Tories are sly, cunning and calculating, they always have been. The liberal Democrats at the top of the party need to be on the ball and in a strong pair of hands, especially when you are in bed with the devil.

    Nick Clegg simply is not that person.

  • Alex Sabine 14th Feb '14 - 7:17pm

    Whatever you think of Zac Goldsmith’s father (and I’m not a fan, but nor do I see why a liberal would use that against his son), Zac has been a tireless campaigner for the recall idea. Indeed he is as zealous about this as he is about opposing a third runway at Heathrow!

    Partly for the reason you allude to (his personal wealth), he is one of Parliament’s most independent-minded and least partisan MPs – indeed he has had harsh words for his own Prime Minister on this issue, but blames Nick Clegg for first tabling a horribly flawed and half-bakd plan and then spiking a meaningful recall scheme. Given how passionate he is about this reform, I tend to believe his version and suspect Farron couldn’t resist the opportunity of a political cheap shot.

  • Rabi Martins 14th Feb '14 - 8:50pm

    I have not read much about the Bill on Recall that Nick Clegg is alleged to have drafted
    so don’t know whether or not it would have delivered the promise we made to the public to clean up politics and put an end to MPs getting away with unacceptable behaviour
    What I cannot understand it why government refuses to make time to debate it, amend it and make it deliver what was promised
    I am however not at all surprised that the Tories are lining up to put the blame firmly at Nick Clegg’s door This close to the next General Election why would they support anything that makes the system fair and open
    That having been said no amount of crying foul will make Cameron change his mind and risk upsetting his side
    That is why I welcome te E-petition tat Zac Goldsmith has started We should all sign it and help get the number of signatures required to FORCE a debate

  • Alex Sabine 14th Feb ’14 – 7:17pm
    Alex Sabine if you decide to believ Zac Goldsmith that is your decision.
    But you might like to reflect on his promise to resign as MP if the government did not stop the third runway at Heathrow..
    If you think that the Conservative arenot going ahead with a third runway that is your decision.
    To me it seems quite obvious what is happening about Heathrow and it is obvious that Zac Goldsmith has not resigned as MP.

  • Good – I’m glad this proposal will not become law. The idea was half-baked populism pandering to the mob in the wake of the expenses scandal and entirely unnecessary in a democracy. The electorate are not stupid, and most of those most implicated in abuse of expenses have paid the price without the need for this legislation.

  • John: I think it’s entirely plausible that the next government (of whatever political complexion) will give the go-ahead to Heathrow expansion and equally certain that Zac Goldsmith will denounce it. If the Tories are in government and he is still the MP for Richmond Park, I think it’s highly likely he would resign and trigger a by-election, yes. (I don’t share his views on the airport question but I do think his passion on that, recall and other issues is genuine.)

  • Personally dont support the idea of recall as it is fraught with problems, tonyhill is spot on, it always was pandering to the mob, so in this case I dont agree with Zac Goldsmith – however Zac’s analysis of what has happened on this issue should be read, and shows (not the first time) Clegg’s political weakness.

  • Mason Cartwright 14th Feb '14 - 11:42pm

    ” The idea was half-baked populism pandering to the mob”

    I don’t think you ever had any cause to worry as the Lib Dems had it covered by ensuring that it could never be invoked even if it made it through.

    I think the Lib Dems are right though, accountability is fundamentally wrong. We should get rid of it in every profession.

    People will be asking for performance measures next.

    We shouldn’t encourage these irresponsible ideas.

  • It has obviously escaped your attention, Mason, that MPs are obliged to offer themselves to public accountability at least once every five years.

  • Mason Cartwright 15th Feb '14 - 9:51am

    Actually it didn’t.

    But I think most people in the UK would actually bite your hand off if you offered them a guaranteed job (post interview) regardless of their performance or, for the most part, conduct for a half decade at a time that pays really really well and gives a fantastic benefits package.

    I think all jobs public and private should follow a similar model.

  • I agree with Tony Hill. It was always a populist bit of nonsense that appealed to newspaper and media tycoons — a bit like directly elected Mayors (Mussolinis in a municipal setting).
    It would have handed power not to the people but to the media moguls. The experience of the USA where this exists in some states is a warning. For example the rightwing media in California conspired to smear and then “recall” a properly elected Democrat and thence influenced the subsequent election to put in gormless film star with an ostensibly populist approach which masked an extreme righting agenda. California is still strugglIng to overcome the damage done by this because of the lack of public investment in crucial infrastructure which resulted from the policies of the Schwarzenegger era.

  • Mason Cartwright 15th Feb '14 - 10:56am

    I think as ever the devil is in the detail.

    As a principle MP’s should be held to account far more than they currently are. If anyone seriously thinks otherwise I only have one piece of advice. Look at what Westminster has evolved into in the absence of such real accountability.

    If parliamentarians believe that fear of being fired, for doing a poor job in every other walk of life, is a tough but necessary measure to produce a productive and healthy economy then let them walk the walk.

    This proposal by the Lib Dems was however a smokescreen that would have achieved nothing of substance.

  • Christine Headley 15th Feb '14 - 11:07am

    @Matt “1st we saw Vince Cable as Business secretary having to argue the case for a rise in tuition fee’s and vote for a policy that deep down neither he nor the party agreed with”.

    I don’t agree with your analysis. He could have kicked it into the long grass, but preferred to push it through as fast as possible. While the party preferred the pledge, and disagreed with the fees’ rise, it would appear that Cable had gone along with it rather than agreeing with the rest of us.

  • Max Wilkinson 15th Feb '14 - 11:18am

    It’s a shame that this has been dropped and it certainly reflects badly on those charged with taking the bill through parliament.

    However, I reckon if I walked down the High Street this afternoon, I probably wouldn’t find many people who had heard about it.

  • “However, I reckon if I walked down the High Street this afternoon, I probably wouldn’t find many people who had heard about it.
    Perhaps, but then again, it seems that 72% just ‘shrug’, and see this sort of breaking your word on a pledge, the accepted norm, as far as politicians go?

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