I blogged on the 20th of February on Colin Craig’s call for MPs to vote on same sex marriage in accordance with the wishes of their electorate. He was reported as saying:
Mr Craig said that if he was elected, he would vote for gay marriage if his electorate demanded it, in spite of his strong opposition to the law change.
Okay so does this mean if Colin Craig was an electorate MP and a poll showed the majority of his electorate support abortion on demand, Colin Craig would vote for the law to be abortion on demand – no matter how strongly he personally feels it is murder?
I’d like to see an answer to that question. Would Colin Craig vote for abortion on demand if a majority of the electorate backed it?
Colin has kindly responded to the question and sent in a guest post, where he outlines his views on the role of referenda and what should happen if an MP and their electorate do not agree. His response is:
This question, of course, could be proposed for various controversial socially liberal pieces of legislation, and is really a question of “how do I see democracy working, and how does representation happen”. So in a nutshell here is my view:
Government initiated referenda: (including general elections). The people vote and their will is done even if there is a single vote in it. I believe these should be limited to major issues such as elections, constitutional/ electoral arrangements, and major social changes (such as redefining marriage). However, as this is at the discretion of government, it could be used more extensively if the government saw fit.
Citizens initiated referenda: Such referenda are proposed by the citizens themselves. Our party policy is that where such a referenda achieves two-thirds support from the voting public it should be binding on government. Existing legislation needs amendment not only to bring in the binding aspect, but also to limit proposals to simple questions in the affirmative.
Vote in Parliament by List MPs: In my view a list MP should always vote consistent with the Party Policy. If no policy exists (such as on redefining marriage for National MPs) then the best option would be for them to consult with members of the party and thereby accurately represent the membership. As our Party has three clear policies on abortion (“Proper Application of Existing Law”, “Free and Informed Consent”, and “Parental Consent for Minors”) which are all aimed at reducing the number of abortions, no Conservative Party List MP would vote for abortion on demand.
Vote in Parliament by Electorate MPs :
A challenging situation could arise if a Conservative Party candidate is elected as the MP for an electorate. He is then being sent to parliament to represent an electorate (not a party). I do believe that an MP is required to faithfully represent those who sent him even if he does not agree with them. A simple servant-master situation.
If the electorate required the MP to vote in a way that was against his conscience (and “yes” abortion on demand is against mine), he has in my view the following options:
- To vote as directed by the electorate (against his own conscience)
- To abstain on the issue
- To go back to the electorate and negotiate with them. If there is an impasse then to offer his resignation.
- To ignore the electorate and vote as he pleases
The first and last options (1 & 4) I believe to be incorrect choices. The first, because it breaches conscience, and the last because it usurps the servant role of the representative (it would be unfaithful to those who sent him). This leaves only 2 & 3 as options in my view. Personally I would elect the third option.
To close then, “no” I would not vote for “abortion on demand” but I would recognise that as an electorate MP this might require my resignation. If so then I would be pleased to stand aside so that a representative who was “more in tune” with the electorate could take my place.
A simple case of the people wishes being done and that my friend is democracy.
It’s a thoughtful nuanced response. I understand the attractiveness of (3) but I wonder about the practicality. How do you determine what is the opinion of the electorate? Is is through random polls like my company does? Is it based on write in responses? What is the response is 51% one way and 49% the other? do you take into account intensity of feeling? And how exactly do you negotiate with an entire electorate?
But it’s good to have had Colin elaborate more fully on his views of how referenda and MPs consciences and electorate wishes should work together. Lots of stuff to consider there.Tags: Colin Craig, conscience votes, referendum