Social Credit and the Taxpayers’ Union’ find common ground – but on an electoral issue rather than monetary reform

Social Credit – yes, we have found signs of life – is braying that the Taxpayers’ Union has started promoting Social Credit policy in the run up to this year’s general election.

It’s a fair bet it is not monetary policy on which common ground has been found.

No, it’s electoral reform.

The Taxpayers’ Union on Friday called for the adoption of Recall, a process that would enable voters to force elected representatives to stand down and face a by-election.

Social Credit is chuffed because Recall has been a central plank of its policy for more than 40   years.

A Recall poll could be invoked in cases where MPs or local body politicians were acting contrary to the promises they made to voters during an election campaign, or where there was a substantial level of disquiet about their performance.

The Taxpayers’ Union announced last Friday it had launched a joint campaign with the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance and Rodney-based Northern Action Group calling for Labour and National to include the introduction of a recall option in their election manifestos’ local government policies.

Its press statement noted that Local Government New Zealand had confirmed recall elections were contained in LGNS’s 2017 “Local Government Manifesto”.  The foreword had been written by the then LGNZ President, Lawrence Yule, now Shadow Local Government Minister.

The paper said:

Recall elections: At the national level if a government loses the confidence of the House and no alternative government is available then another election is called. No similar provision exists
at the local government level. Occasionally communities elect members to a council who are unable to find common ground and work together. In some cases individuals may be elected to
councils without understanding the nature of the role they stood for and find that they are completely unsuitable for public life.

Under the current legislative framework these councils, even if highly dysfunctional, stay in office for three years, regardless of popular opinion. Internationally it is common for citizens to
have the ability to demand, through a petition process, a recall election to address governance problems created by elected representatives who, for what ever (sic) reason, lose the confidence of
their electorates.

Neil Miller, an analyst at the Taxpayers’ Union, co-wrote the Union’s Joint Proposal Paper.

He said:

“Seldom are the Taxpayers’ Union and the local government lobby on the same side – but on recall elections, everyone can see the common sense. Recall elections enhance democracy, and would serve to increase trust in local councils and DHBs.” 

“With Lawrence Yule having championed this cause before becoming an MP, the question now is whether he can convince his National Party colleagues to adopt our proposal as an election policy. We’re also challenging the Labour Party to do the same.” 

The LGNZ paper is available for download at www.taxpayers.org.nz/lgnz_on_recall_elections.

The Joint Proposal Paper by the Taxpayers’ UnionRatepayers’ Alliance, and Northern Action Group, is available at www.taxpayers.org.nz/recall_paper

Hard on the heels of Social  Credit expressing its delight, Miller today was drawing attention to two local bodies where recall would be no bad thing.

He  referenced the Prime Minister’s point blank refusal on radio to appoint commissioners or even intervene at the highly dysfunctional Tauranga and Invercargill City Councils.

This means that recall elections are now essential to protect local democracy, Miller contends.

“Central Government has traditionally had a role in tipping out local officials who are ratbags, rascals or just totally dysfunctional. If the Prime Minster won’t act, she must provide an alternative mechanism such as recall elections.”

“Recall elections serve as a safeguard for local democracy. They are becoming more and more common around the world – and it’s time they were introduced into New Zealand at the local government level.”

Point of Order two years ago drew attention to events in Britain that would – hurrah! – empower voters to require delinquent MPs to vacate  their seats.

This could be applied to local government, too, we noted at the time (without getting any accolades from Social Credit).

The Recall of MPs Act 2015 in the UK provides the mechanism to recall Members of Parliament.

An MP will lose his or her seat in the House of Commons if a petition to recall them can gather support from at least 10% of the electorate in the constituency. The MP will lose the seat and a by-election will be triggered. The recalled MP can stand as a candidate at the by-election.

Arguments for recall legislation were accepted by all the main political parties after the expenses scandal, with David Cameron and Nick Clegg pledging to introduce the legislation in their 2010 Coalition agreement.

The concept received widespread support from the public but MPs struggled to agree where the line for recall should be drawn. If it was too easy to recall an MP, the system might be open to abuse; if it was too difficult, it would offer no meaningful check on elected officials.

In the upshot, the UK Government essentially accepted many of the concerns about the dangers of having a low bar and the 2015 Act was criticised as close to toothless in an article by Stephen Bush, special correspondent at the New Statesman.

In 2009, an article posted at Stuff was headed Voters need the power to recall MPs.

The author said it had become too easy for MPs to apologise for bad behaviour and then expect the public to accept them back into the fold.

The public have their say only once every three years when they can vote the MP out. This leaves voters effectively powerless for most of each parliamentary term. Surely something can be done to prevent or at least lessen such errant MP behaviour. Otherwise so much of what passes for political debate is simple a long-running sideshow.

I’ve previously argued for voters to have the ability to recall MPs who are not behaving the way they should or are not following policies on whose basis they were elected. It would be the NZ equivalent of the US impeachment process for presidents.

If a petition of 10% of voters in an electorate demands the recall of a member of Parliament then that could set in motion a recall vote of all in the electorate. If the MP is recalled through the vote then a by-election would be held.

I wouldn’t imagine such a recall happening very often but the mere existence of such a recall mechanism would help focus MPs more on public service than personal sideshows.

Maybe, Point of Order mused at the time – although politicians typically have a prodigious prowess for circumventing measures intended to make them compliant to the will of the people.

One thought on “Social Credit and the Taxpayers’ Union’ find common ground – but on an electoral issue rather than monetary reform

  1. This will never happen. Recall sounds great but local body politics is dominated by Labour party hacks and former MPs. For example, our esteemed Christchurch mayor, Ms Dalziel, or Mr Goff in Auckland; both were former cabinet ministers. Recall sounds wonderful in theory but I doubt Labour in particular would ever support it.

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