In general, I am a supporter of direct democracy. I have experienced both the good and the bad directly, and of course it has the potential to be just plain ugly. One suggestion to come out of the whole over-blown scandal surrounding MP expense claims (some are truly astonishing bordering on the hilarious, but most are well within the rules, however warped those rules might be) is to introduce the recall for sitting Westminster MPs. Tory leader David Cameron has opportunistically come out in favor (does anybody really believe a Tory government will touch Constitutional reform?) and the electorate overwhelmingly support it – the recent Populus poll (scroll way down) estimates support at 82%.
Any system that elevates B grade actors to the governor’s mansion in Sacramento is a good thing. But the very institutional nature of a parliamentary democracy, with no clear division between executive and legislative branches, consigns the idea to the realm of lunacy. In the UK, with the plurality electoral system and multiple parties, it’s common for elected MPs to only win a plurality of support in their constituency (hell, the existing healthy Labor majority was elected on only 35.3% of the national popular vote). Cabinet ministers are on occasion drawn from marginal seats (to wit: the outgoing Home Secretary Jacqui Smith won her seat in 2005 with a plurality of 2716 votes, only 6.7%, which has to be considered by the Tories an easy swing target in 2010). In a close parliament, a well organized opposition could strategically pick off marginal seats, potentially pulling the rug of majority support in parliament out from under the government. Even more fun, they could target cabinet ministers either when they eventually screw up, or the vagaries of political support make the current government temporarily vulnerable. Many characterize the current government as chaotic (to be fair, LibDem leader Nick Clegg did say “in total meltdown“) but the recall would introduce the sort of chaos that one could profit from selling tickets for admission.