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When is a Punishment not a Punishment

The Andrew Bridgen story is one that I find really frustrating.

Let’s be clear what he did. As an elected member of the House of Commons he peddled misinformation about the Covid vaccine, not as a one-off, but on a number of occasions.

The result of all of this is that he has been suspended by the Conservative Party. Some will think he has now been punished. But he hasn’t. Andrew Bridgen will sit on the back benches for a period of about 6 months or so and, if he toes the line and votes appropriately then he will get the whip back and all will be normal.

My issue is that MPs are supposed to be able to weigh up evidence and come up with sensible conclusions. Sometimes those conclusions may differ from those of others – that is what politics is about – but they should still stand up to some sort of robust scrutiny. Andrew Bridgen’s views about Covid do not, and the reality check article by the BBC is clear evidence. Basically they amount to misinformation which, by the nature of Andrew Bridgen’s position, may influence people and cause harm – to the point where people may lose their lives.

So, basically the end result of these lies is virtually no punishment. It is another example of failing politics and another reason for political renewal in the UK. My view is, if some sort of independent scrutiny came to the same conclusion that I have above, a recall petition should be opened, that way his constituents can decide whether they want him as their MP. If they don’t a by-election can then be called (under Proportional Representation a different system would probably apply).

Finally, I would add that I would support a similar process for Councillors. There are a few councillors who have expressed some foul views about Covid (and other issues), and, it is really hard to hold councillors to account for misinformation, when the only real punishment they receive is a slap on the wrist, an instruction to issue an apology and maybe some training; if Cllrs views are proven to be without foundation and likely to cause harm, they too should be accountable through recall.


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