The 'Recall' - how to hold politicians to account

One problem we face in British politics is the over-centralisation of the political system.  Taxpayers are often financing a system too unfair and iniquitous as to defy belief.  Yet we are too distant from the centre of power, we lack the ability to transform the system that forces us to pay more and more for smaller returns.

Look at this, altogether familiar, scenario.  An MP stands for a party on a platform committed to cutting tax, supporting tax reform or restrictions in public spending.  He runs in a seat overwhelmingly in favour of smaller government, a safe constituency and a seat for life.  Whilst in office, however, our MP votes for tax increases, spending hikes and regulations that impinges on our everyday freedoms.

How do we hold him to account?  His constituency is a one party state.  His constituency party is more loyal than a Politburo conference.  How can we take action?

One simple answer comes from a discussion I had last week at a meeting of Direct Democracy, a group committed to localism and decentralisation of political power.  The idea is one well used across the pond in the States, the innovation to ‘recall’ politicians the people have had enough of.

Simply put, the ‘recall’ is an election initiated when X% of the electorate sign a petition to put the politician on the ballot to see whether they should continue in office.  Should the politician lose, his seat is vacated and a by election takes place.

Eighteen US states have the power to recall their state officials, the most prominent being the 2003 recall of Californian Governor Gray Davis.  He lost the election and paved the way for Arnold Schwarzenegger to emerge as the incoming Governor. 

The situation in California was one the British taxpayer would easily recognise.  The essential problem was a politician interfering to the detriment of upstanding taxpayers.

Using their constitutional rights, Californians rallied to recall Davis.  Of all parties and none they came together to put his legitimacy to the test and ousted him - a real pitchfork rebellion if there ever was one, organised by Californian Tax Activist Ted Costa.

Imagine if we had that power here in the UK.  Directly elected Mayors and politicians can be directly held to account for gross breaches of conduct.  Defectors can be forced to test their new mandate.  Taxpayers can finally have a voice.

Political parties are beginning to democratise, the Conservatives using open primaries to select their candidates is just one example.  However, if we are to empower the taxpayers’ movement, we have to ensure the power to hold politicians accountable is taken away from compromised political hacks and put in the hands of the very people who pay the politicians salaries. 

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