Recently the main political focus was in Scotland for the independence referendum. It was great to see so many people of all ages engaged with voter turnout at nearly 85%. By contrast in May Enfield’s local elections turnout in some wards was below 30%. Plainly the electorate in Scotland think their vote makes more of a difference. As we consider how best to devolve more power fairly across our United Kingdom, we need to find ways to bring politics closer to the people.
For starters it is time for England to raise its voice more strongly, so that only England’s MPs vote on England’s laws. We also need our own independence referendum. Not about the British Union but about membership of the European Union. This month I voted with Conservative MPs in favour of a law to ensure a referendum takes place by 2017. It has been over 30 years since the public last had their say on our nation’s relationship with Europe and much has changed since then. Most importantly I believe that unless we can properly control our borders in relation to immigration we cannot be an independent nation and we cannot remain in the EU.
Since 2008 I have campaigned for the right for the electorate to recall MPs if they have misbehaved. I think this is an important mechanism to hold MPs to account and once a reasonable threshold has been past a by-election can be triggered. It would instil confidence in politics after a number of scandals have reduced the public’s trust in politicians. I am therefore pleased that at last a Bill is before Parliament to provide this right to recall. Unfortunately the Government’s Bill does not go far enough because it gives an MPs’ Committee the veto on recalling an MP rather than putting the power in the hands of people. I will be trying to amend the Bill so that the public has a right to real recall.
Ultimately the public wants to see whether their view or vote makes a difference. Last year on October 16th one constituent Gary McKinnon saw that difference when his life was saved by not being extradited to the US. Gary’s fantastic mother Janis Sharp brought Gary’s plight to my attention soon after being elected in 2005. After years of campaigning, parliamentary questions, debates and motions it came down to the wire as the decision was discussed in Cabinet and then announced in Parliament by the Home Secretary. Gary’s doctors had made it clear that the combination of his Asperger’s Syndrome and mental illness meant he would kill himself if extradited. Given the Prime Minister’s promise not to extradite Gary I had announced that I would resign from the Government if Gary was extradited. It was an issue of trust and compassion which finally prevailed.
Your issue may not become such a national issue as Gary McKinnon’s but please contact me so that I can be your strong voice. Check out my website or follow me on twitter for details of my regular surgeries and public meetings.
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