Something I’m thinking about a lot right now. For members of both the Commons and the Lords, I think that there should be a mechanism for subjecting somebody for re-election should they behave sufficiently poorly. I’m clear that, for MPs certainly (as they are elected) the people who should judge “sufficiently poorly” are the electorate themselves, but I’m less clear about how such a mechanism would work.
Because the MP’s constituents should be involved in the process, I suppose a petition would be the way to go. But there’s a technical issue in making sure that somebody who signs the petition is actually a constituent. It’s difficult to get this 100%, even if you cross-check signitaries against the electoral register. But I suppose the safeguard is that the consequences of the petition would only be a by-election, in which the incumbent would be allowed to stand, so I suppose we can get past that one.
The other thing would be, how many voters would need to sign such a petition? It’s tempting to say that the answer to that is so many percent of the number of people who voted for the MP. Except, of course, we don’t know who those people are. If we say that 75% of voters is enough to trigger a no confidence petition, then what happens in a very marginal constituency, where maybe the winner only got 50.1% of the vote? There’s 49.9% from the get-go who might be persuaded to have no confidence in the MP, regardless of the MPs actual performance. If the threshold is 75% of the votes cast for the MP (or even 95%), then that becomes achievable pretty much automatically. In fact, even if you go over 100%, the numbers would skew, say, a very safe seat.
I think if you’re going to have a mechanism for getting rid of people, you still have a petition, but you may as well pluck the numbers out of thin air. You have to fall back and say that the worst consequence is that the incumbent MP faces a by-election.
Unless anybody has any better ideas?