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I support the government’s proposals on the recall of MPs.

First, MPs are not delegates, they are representatives; as Edmund Burke famously said to the electors of Bristol, in 1774

“… it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

This is but a short extract from a lengthy text and I appreciate it is now more than two centuries old, but I do not think anyone has ever better defined the relationship between MP and constituent.

I fear a recall mechanism that is too broadly drawn carries the great risk of pressure groups of a minority of constituents campaigning to drive from office those with whom they simply disagree on policy issues - issues they deem important but where the MP and many of his or her constituents feel differently.

Second, a recall mechanism already exists every five years in the shape of regular elections. An MP who betrays the trust of his or her electors will pay the price at the ballot box and I can assure you that we politicians are all keenly aware of this.

However, I accept there are some behaviours which cannot wait until the election. Furthermore, the declining strength of local political parties has made the other mechanism of deselection of a candidate more arbitrary than it once was. The time has indeed come for some new arrangements.

Against this background I have studied the government’s Bill and am convinced it addresses the criminal and public interest issues comprehensively.

I will be supporting the government’s sensible and balanced legislation and will resist any more aggressive approach which I believe would be profoundly damaging for the integrity of our democracy.

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