The flaws of the NUS's "right to recall" campaign

The right to recall will not apply to those MPs who break election promises.

Those Liberal Democrat MPs who, in defiance of their election promises, are planning to vote to triple tuition fees, deserve to be punished by the electorate. But I'm not convinced that the National Union of Student's new "Right to Recall" campaign (launched today) is the best way to achieve this.

The campaign is an ironic attempt to use the Lib Dems' own weapon against themselves. The NUS notes that the party promised to use a new "right to recall" procedure against MPs "who break promises or are found guilty of impropriety". Once the "right to recall" becomes law, the union promises to force pro-fees MPs to face byelections.

But the Lib Dems never suggested that MPs who break their promises should be targeted, merely those who "break the rules". The "right to recall" initiative was specifically designed to respond to the extraordinary circumstances of the expenses scandal. The Liberal Democrat manifesto was clear on this point:

[We] will give you the right to sack MPs who have broken the rules. We would introduce a recall system so that constituents could force a byelection for any MP found responsible for serious wrongdoing.

We can debate whether voters should also have the right to recall those MPs who break election promises, but for now the entire NUS campaign is founded on a false premise. There is no prospect of any MP being recalled for anything other than illegal behaviour.

It's also reasonable of anti-fees Lib Dems such as Evan Harris (who topped elections for the party's federal executive) to point out that the NUS never suggested voting against, "let alone recalling", Labour MPs who broke their promise not to introduce top-up fees.

The NUS will not target anti-fees MPs such as Tim Farron, the party's new president, but for the rest, "decapitation", not recall, looks like the best bet.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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