Wednesday morning we were treated to all the pomp and circumstance of the State Opening of Parliament, and the Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty still delivering splendidly on her part at the age of 88. She has seen out 11 Prime Ministers and will probably see out David Cameron too. The longest serving was Margaret Thatcher, at 11 and a half years, which says something for the constitution of women.
By the by, the key political messages from this morning were those that David Cameron and his advisors had written into the speech. Amongst other bills, there was private pension reform, an enabler for fracking, more house building and the right of recall of MPs. Now, the last one is one that UKIPpers should be cheering from the rooftops about, it being one of our key policies, on top of that other tool of direct democracy, the referendum.
But, this is where I start to get cynical. Surely, with Cameron’s commitment to “crack down” on sleaze, which was rife when he took on the reins, this should have been one of the measures in the first term of Parliament. In the meantime, we have had the Huhne, Mercer, Hancock and Miller cases amongst others, some resolving themselves, others just rumbling on. It has been left to the final term – why?
Also, we could be suspicious about the way the bill has been crafted. The present draft bill appears to have safeguards in it against specious attempts at recall as outlined in this summary:
The power to recall MPs means that an MP who is found guilty of serious wrongdoing could be forced to stand down and face a by-election. 10% of an MP’s constituents would have to sign a petition requesting a recall for a by-election to happen.
This will only apply to cases where the MP is sent to jail for a year or less, or if the House of Commons decide that an MP’s behaviour justifies it.
It’s that last clause which makes me suspicious…
Come May 2015, UKIP can expect to have some MPs elected. Given the nature of 4-party politics (I prefer the term three and a half parties, the Lib Dems being the half) some of those MPs will be elected on vote shares on 30-35%, as will many MPs of other parties. Let’s posit a notional result with some round numbers:
So, neither the Liberal Democrats nor UKIP could be kingmakers, with a requirement of 325 for a majority. The rag-bag collection of Greens, Independents and Nationalists would be unlikely to unite in enough numbers to enable either Labour or Conservative to rule, and the LDs and UKIP are poles apart so them combining is out of the question.
What happens then? We have heard rumours of a Labour-Conservative coalition, uniting 89% of MPs and around two-thirds of the electorate into a single force. As an aside, how many Labour and Conservative voters would be utterly disgusted at such a move, but returning to the main point…
Even if they don’t need to form a coalition, or choose to operate a minority government with a less formal arrangement, they are the establishment, and the establishment tends to close ranks on itself. The “external” UKIP threat seems to be driving them more and more together as well.
So, what do you, the readers, think? Do you think that this recall bill could be misused maliciously? Might they chose to use it to attack opponents of the 89% by moblising activists to obtain signatures? Or, could they use the fact that the bill requires parliament to approve each requested recall action, to block any voter requests for recall and defend their own?