When angry posh boy Zac Goldsmith got in trouble over his election expenses on Channel 4 News, we mischievously suggested he might be setting himself up as the first victim of his Coalition's MP recall policy. He's come back strongly this week, piously advocating to Total Politics a Bill along those lines:
My Presentation Bill calls for a genuine recall mechanism to allow people to dump their representative if a majority has lost confidence in him/her, for whatever reason," he tells Total Politics. "It is a right that should exist at every level, from councillor to MP, and it should not be subject to approval by a central authority."
'Allow people to dump their representative' - 'Not be subject to approval by a central authority' - if localism is to mean *anything* this is the crux of the matter. It's also the only possible defence of favouring constituency based parliamentary politics over a proportional system - if the Member is elected and immediately buggers off to vote the way the Whips tell him for five years, what's the point of *not* moving to a proportional system - you might as well just have a list and get a fair voting system into the bargain.
In the light of that, it's interesting to note that, just as we looked like getting rid of the execrable and anti-democratic Standards Board, it appears that a 'central authority' is pushing its way back into Coalition thinking around recall. The Hounslow Chronicle carries an article by Zac Goldsmith himself leading the charge against this:
But in truth, the proposals fall short of the initial pledge. Power is to be given to a parliamentary board, which alone will decide if an MP has behaved badly enough to warrant recall.
The terms of reference are to be restricted to ‘serious wrongdoing’. Effectively, the pressure is from the centre, not from voters.
Now, by my reckoning the creation of a 'parliamentary board' removes the whole point of recall as a locally driven initiative, as well as opening it up to all sorts of House of Cards style shenanigans around manipulating the process to silence outspoken mavericks. Mavericks like, well, Zac Goldsmith. Funny, eh?