Should MPs behave?
By Jim Scott
Members of Parliament are our local channel into central government. They take community concerns to the commons and argue the cases of many, what would be unheard voices. But as new information comes to light about Partying MPs as cleaners complain about vomit and their party-style antics, should we expect our MPs to behave at all times?
Over the weekend, it was revealed that MPs were warned about the way they behaved at their Westminster offices. It was alleged that cleaners complained to higher authorities when they found used condoms and vomit in the workspaces that MPs use, the Times reports.
But whilst no MPs have been specifically named. It is understood that the commons authorities, who administers and uphold standards in Parliament, is considering the introduction of a "service agreement" which would see all MPs given set rules about their conduct within their Westminster offices, the Sunday Times said.
But several years ago, it became subject of debate whether the public would be able to decide on the fate of a misbehaving MP. The Telegraph reported radical plans to depose an unpopular MP by petition. The House of Commons then approved such plans which would see MPs being "recalled" and subjected to vote by petition if they broke major rules.
But use of the "Recall of MP’s Act" which became law in 2015, was recently put to the test.
DUP MP for North Antrim in Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley Jr had been suspended for thirty days after he failed to disclose a pecuniary interest, breaking the MPs code of conduct. Mr Paisley's suspension was one of the longest issued by the Commons in 70 years, but his suspension was seen as fair. He had been on two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013, during which he received over £50,000 from the Sri Lankan government, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
Breaking the code of conduct, by failing to declare his interests, meant he was subject to the recall process. Mr Paisley Jr faced deposition if over 7,500 signatures were raised in a petition to oust him from his seat, new rules stated.
But after six weeks of the petition being live. Mr Paisley Jr managed to keep his seat in parliament after 7,099 signatures were raised. He received 444 fewer than the 7,543 required to start the process of a by-election and ultimately unseat him from his North Antrim hold.
In reaction, The New Statesman remained critical of the recall process. It said that the petition was signed by 9.4 percent of voters within his constituency, whilst the minimum threshold required was 10 percent. Critics said only three signing stations were opened in a "heavily rural constituency" whilst others called it "draconian".
However, the test of whether the recall process works continues. On Sunday, October 7th it was announced that Conservative MP for Burton, Andrew Griffiths was being investigated for sending over 2,000 texts, some of which were explicit, to two bar women. The MP had previously quit government for "sexting" last summer. Meanwhile, The Sun said a by-election would be triggered if his current suspension from parliament lasted more than 10 days.
So as the recall act begins to make waves amongst the disarray caused in Westminster. It would seem that this divisive punishment could scare some of the most controversial MPs yet.