Kirsty Williams calls for right of recall for AMs

rally kirsty williams 1What happens when Parliamentarians misbehave? Not a lot unless they are sent to prison for over a year, apparently. The clamour for a right of recall, to make errant parliamentarians face their electorate if found to have been involved in serious wrongdoing, has been growing since the MPs’ expenses scandal five years ago. Last year the case of Bill Walker, the MSP convicted of violent assaults on three wives, showed why such a law was necessary.

Now Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has called for a right of recall for AMs. WalesOnline has the story:

Kirsty Williams will use a speech to call for members of the public to have the right, via petition, to call for a referendum where voters are asked if they would like a by-election in their constituency.

Her call reflects a debate raging in Westminster about whether members of the public should be able to recall MPs, with some suggesting current plans do not put enough power in the hands of voters.

“In Wales, it hasn’t been on the agenda at all,” she is expected to say at the first Electoral Reform Society Cymru Platfform speech at the Senedd on Monday.

“Today, I will put it on the agenda and state clearly that I believe the people of Wales should have the right to recall their Assembly Members.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats would give people proper powers for holding their politicians to account.

“There is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that once elected, a politician can do as he or she pleases and their constituents can do nothing about it for five years.

And the site’s readers seem to agree with her. Here’s the poll they ran on the subject;

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 07.55.57

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16 Comments

  • It should include where they have misrepresented their intentions to the electorate. Therefore the Tories who campaigned under “no extension to VAT” in 1992 and then introduced it for domestic gas and power, Labour who campaigned stating their would be no top up fees promptly introducing them and the Lib Dems who pledged to vote one way and then voted the polar opposite on tuition fees should, in my opinion, all have faced their electorate a second time.

    We can all accept that events can change the stated approach later in a parliament but all of the examples above were blatant and happened within a short period. All hoped that that time would diminish the importance of their actions by the next election, it worked for Labour but not the Tories and I don’t think you need to have the prediction powers of Nostradamus to feel that it will hurt the Lib Dems come May 2015.

    Politicians guilty of significant criminal offenses should not be recalled but sacked and barred from running again for a period commensurate with their offence. For some a recall would not be enough, there are enough seats where Professor Moriarty in a Labour / Tory / SNP rosette would still be elected….

  • Obviously my examples above relate to MP’s but I’m sure someone more versed with Welsh politics could identify similar examples from AM’s….

  • matt (Bristol) 11th Nov '14 - 12:34pm

    So, again, I ask the question, how does single-member recall (which is what seems to be being offered) work in a proportional system (in this case Mixed Member)?

    Is Kirsty saying that a member of the assembly elected from the regional list, if ‘recalled’ would be replaced by another regional list member (by that party, so not by the electorate)? Or is she proposing that there would be some sort of choice on a FPTP basis on who would replace them?

    ‘Recall’ sounds good, it’s relatively easy to understand explain the basic principle, it clearly could work, functionally speaking, in a single-member FPTP system such as we have for the UK parliament.

    BUT … It’s just that the nuances of how it might work in a proportional system could very very easily give rise to something that many people would not ultimately recognise as being ‘recall’ and would feel ‘cheated’ by.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Nov '14 - 2:34pm

    Recall isn’t tough enough. We should get an outside body to cut their pensions and make it easier to throw them in prison. That’s what they have done to many finance workers who had nothing to do with the crash.

    Nothing has ever made me even consider voting UKIP before than this payday loan ban. I highly highly doubt I will, but we are desperate to get the current lot out of parliament.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Nov '14 - 2:38pm

    In fact, I think civil disobedience is better than voting UKIP. We should just riot.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Nov '14 - 2:49pm

    Last night’s vote was a turning point. I was fine with it until I read of more contemptuous actions by politicians today. If democracy is getting ignored then suddenly other options will seem fair game.

  • Now here is the person to lead and give us a fighting chance next May. Could it be organised?

  • matt (Bristol): In her speech, Kirsty stated that regional members could be recalled on a similar basis, and then the next member on the list should take over the role rather than a by-election. The 20% threshold could be met in each constituency inside the region.

  • David Allen 11th Nov '14 - 6:33pm

    Steve Way argues that all three main parties should have been subject to a mass recall at some point during the last decade. Er, doesn’t that show that the recall idea, unless hedged about with very careful constraints, would be a big danger to democracy, and not a boon at all?

    Basically, it’s saying that if you didn’t like being beaten in the election, and you have enough money and time to trump up some sort of reason for a challenge, you can get the election re-run. That’s how it works in the US, as a weapon in the hands of the wealthy far Right.

    Let’s be very careful what we wish for!

  • @David Allen
    If they risked being recalled for blatant misrepresentation to the electorate I believe it would improve not damage democracy. Imagine a politician keeping their word, no more broken promises… Unless of course you believe that in the examples above voters were not deceived ? I imagine having to face the electorate again in 2010 would have forced a few more Lib Dems to keep their pledge. And if they genuinely believed in their reasoning for breaking their promise surely they would be happy to explain that to the electorate?

    It’s a strange world where expecting politicians to be honest and holding them to account if they fall short is a danger to democracy. The alternative is what we have now, make promises to voters during a campaign, get elected, break the promises early then hope they forget in the following 5 years. Fixed term parliaments especially as long as this mean politicians, especially those intending to retire, need have absolutely no regard for those they supposedly represent.

  • David Allen 11th Nov '14 - 7:32pm

    @ Steve Way,

    Who is going to decide where the boundary line between misfortune and dishonesty is deemed to be, when politicians “promise” goodies, offer goodies, or aspire to offering goodies, and then find that they can’t afford the goodies? There is no godlike figure who can decide this, so, you are sentencing us all to endless constitutional rows.

    Of course the Lib Dems deserve punishment for breaking their pledge. They will be given it through the ballot box, by the free and individual decisions of voters. That’s how it should be done.

  • At the same time the pledge was broken they made it harder to get them to the ballot box by introducing fixed term parliaments. It does not take god like qualities to see the dishonesty in any of the examples above. Three questions would probably suffice. Were you elected promising x. Did you reasonably have the ability to deliver x. If not had the circumstances changed since the promise was made.

    On that test the Lib Dems did not have the ability to deliver their manifesto promise to scrap fees so could not be recalled on that basis. Those that broke their promise to vote against an increase did have the ability to keep their promise so could have been. Likewise Labour with top up fees and the Tories with the extension of VAT. There would have been no mass recall because the politicians would not have wriggled out of their promises knowing to do so would threaten their seats.

    So who could assess whether the three tests have been met, parliament have a standards body, they’re an option. In my industry many professionals are reported to their regulated body by disaffected individuals yet few cases reach hearing as a mechanism exists to screen out vexatious claims. The threats what’s needed to stop MP’s treating the electorate like a once in five year inconvenience.

    There are actually few cases where those tests would be met, but when they happen they dent public confidence in the whole system.

  • Malcolm Todd 12th Nov '14 - 8:36am

    “It was only a minority of LibDem MPs”
    No, it wasn’t. The pledge was to vote against any increase in fees. Only 21 out of 57 did so, while 28 voted with the government. Abstention doesn’t get the missing eight off the hook.

  • I don’t think the numbers in any of the examples matter (although Malcolm is correct) the issue is how many of them would have broken the pledge had they had to face their electorate within a few weeks of having done so?

  • matt (Bristol) 12th Nov '14 - 9:37am

    Tom,

    I am glad to be corrected, that these proposals have in fact thought their way around the regional top-up. This is a new step for those in the party pushing recall, who so far haven’t been as clear in their communication (or that nuannce hasn’t reached the wider world) about the complications presented by proportional systems.

    However, such a system might inadvertently enshrine the ‘different-ness’ of the two types of AM, as regional AMs will presumably need a higher number of petitioners, and the added ‘carrot’ of forcing an open by-election won’t be there, so they will be more prtoected from recall than constituency AMs.

    That said, it’s a reasonable proposal, though.

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