There seem to have been few people who did not offer their two cents on David Ruffley. From domestic violence charities to his political opponents, in the chattering classes and in the blogosphere, all kinds of people felt the need to share their opinion about whether it was appropriate for the Bury St Edmunds MP to remain in Parliament after accepting a police caution for assaulting a former partner.
However, save a few local political and religious leaders who have a platform from which to be heard, one group has been if not entirely silent then entirely powerless throughout: the constituents whom Mr Ruffley serves. Indeed, the people who sent him to the House of Commons to represent them have been side-lined from the discussion about his future, despite being the body to whom he should be directly accountable.
Now that Ruffley has said he will stand down at the General Election they will be denied the chance to pass judgement on him at the ballot box – yet his not-quite-resignation means he will remain as their MP for the next nine months.
This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Ruffley’s constituents will doubtless be wondering why it is in Westminster back rooms – and not in Bury St Edmunds – that decisions have been made about who should represent them in Parliament. Others have exercised power that should be in their hands.
Cases like this – and this is by no means an isolated incident, as Basingstoke (Maria Miller) and Portsmouth South (Mike Hancock) residents will attest – are why Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith tabled his Recall Bill earlier in this Parliament: a piece of legislation which would allow for a mid-term vote on whether an MP should remain in place if enough constituents who felt let down by their representative successfully petitioned for a ballot.