Legally, probably not, but morally I would argue that the answer is “yes”, and here’s my argument – your mileage may very well vary but if you are going to send me death threats you might as well leave now.
This is not a Brexit post – pro or anti …
My argument, or debating point, is that we live in a representative democracy – the electorate elect their local representative to parliament and their only job is to engage in governance to the best of their ability and in the interests of their local electorate – whether they voted for them or not. The only overriding factor to this might be the interests of “Queen and Country”, but crucially they should use their judgement to vote honestly according to their own beliefs in the interest of the people that they represent. In exchange, we the electorate, pay them a reasonable salary, expenses that we hope they wont abuse (!) and a pension.
I hope that there will be few arguments with the above position, that is the fundamentals of representative democracy as I understand them. You will notice that I have not mentioned “politics” or “party” – these things are not part of the definition, they are dirty practicalities that have been overlaid on the system and which have become the “end” rather than the “means”.
Issue 1: I get really frustrated when MPs, the media (all forms), pundits and even friends talk about voting for a party, e.g. “I voted Labour”, because that is not, and never has been, what you are asked to vote for. As a voter, your one and only role is to vote for an individual, someone who you believe will represent you and your fellow constituents, honestly and to the best of their ability. I recently got a questionnaire from a local candidate which asked if I voted Conservative at the last election (they can ask but it is a secret ballot) – well no, I did not, there is no box marked “Conservative” on the ballot paper. For the idea of having “Conservative” on the ballot we would need a system of national proportional representation – but we do not have one, we have a constituancy based first past the post ballot based on individual candidates. If you vote to put a party in power you are mis-voting.
Issue 2: The Manifesto of a party is not law. No one, probably not even the MPs, believes in every crossed-t and dotted-i, every footnote and appendix, of the manifesto. Most voters certainly do not read the manifesto – how many are sold? To say, “you voted conservative (see issue 1) therefore you voted for sub-section 21 of footnote 7 of appendix G” is crass.
Issue 3: MPs do not have second sight. They may tell you what they are going to enact over the next 5 years but if they stick to that unwaveringly then they are not taking into account the way the world changes. They have no idea if there will be some change in world economics, a natural disaster, a political change in the rest of the world or anything so they cannot claim they will hold to their original “promise” no matter what.
Issue 4: This is where my thoughts on treason come in. If any MP votes against their conscience, against the needs and interest of the voters who placed them in parliament, then they are cheating on their constituents. If an MP votes in a way they think is not in the best interest of the country because of a party whip, I would argue it is treason. In commerce it would be unacceptable to act against the interest of your employer (the electorate) or on the dictate of a third party (political party in this instance).
Issue 5: An MP’s job is full time, it is properly compensated and it is a serious commitment. MPs are not paid to engage in politics. MPs salaries, pensions and expenses are not paid by their Party but by the electorate. MPs should govern in their job, politic in their spare time.
Issue 6: If an MP does anything, or makes any decision, that is not optimal for the electorate but because it will help them or their party remain in power then that is treason (small “t”). In commerce it would almost certainly result in instant dismissal.
Issue 7: If you ask a simple yes/no question in a regetendum do not then tell us what we voted for; taking back control, controlling immigration, making Britain great again… you have no idea which.of these is true
It seems to me that the current crop of MPs, with a few notable exceptions, have forgotten all the above. They behave in ways completely unacceptable in business, commerce or the general job market. Given this, it is no wonder that most of the electorate have lost all faith in parliament.
I have often thought of creating a “Fantasy Government” site like the old fantasy football systems. You get to choose your cabinet from whatever mix of Parties you like, then their voting records are applied to see how your government would have done! Trouble is, without including dead people, I’m not sure I could come up with enough candidates, whom I believe are honest to their own beliefs, to fill all the seats in cabinet!