At the time of writing there are a number of MPs in the House who have resigned their whip to face various charges. Most recently, joining their number this morning Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock.He has resigned his whip, but not his seat, to fight allegations of sexual assault without causing his party any embarrassment in the meantime.
That’s an admirable position, and assuming he’s innocent, (which we must) there’s no reason for him to lose his job (at least not before the next election). If he’s cleared of all charges then there’s no reason at all for him not to continue in his career.
While he’s fighting these quite serious charges, he’s not likely to be able to acquit his role as a constituency MP to the standard his constituents ought to be able to expect.
So how to square this circle: He shouldn’t have to resign and lose his job, career and prospects over what may turn out to be entirely spurious, even malicious charge. If we were to expect MPs to resign their seat while they prove their innocence, then it’d become very easy to spitefully destroy an MP just by making an accusation. On the other hand, his constituents deserve an MP who will be focussed on them.
So how about this: Each party submits a list of perhaps half a dozen ‘deputies’ to a cross party committee. The committee can approve the list members (or not if there’s a solid reason). Should a circumstance arise where an MP is temporarily unable to do his or her job, perhaps through personal illness, compassionate leave or – as with today – fighting a criminal charge, one of the list members can be parachuted in as a temporary Deputy Member of Parliament.
Should it become apparent that the absence will become permanent, then a by-elections would be triggered in the usual way, the DMP being barred from standing (to prevent the mechanism being abused to ‘grandfather’ in new MPs). But should the MP be able to return to their seat, then the DPM would step aside and representation return to normal.
[Originally posted on Fifth Donkey]