First MP recall petition was well-run, finds Electoral Commission, with some lessons to be learnt for future

Recall petition information

The recall petition in the North Antrim constituency was well-run with no significant problems affecting voters or campaigners, the Electoral Commission has found in its statutory report published today.

The petition was the first to take place across the UK since the Recall of MPs Act was introduced in 2015, and therefore the first time the legislation was tested.

A number of practical issues have been identified by the Commission which the UK Government should consider addressing so as to help voters, campaigners and administrators at any future petition. These include looking at whether a signing period of six weeks is appropriate and how electors can get more information on recall petitions and take part.

Ann Watt, Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said:

Overall the North Antrim recall petition was well-run with no significant problems. This was the first time the legislation for such a petition had been tested. It therefore provides an opportunity for lessons to be learnt and highlights improvements that could be made by the UK Government which could help voters, campaigners and administrators at any future petition.

The report also finds that, despite criticism of the decision to use three signing places, there was no evidence to suggest that an increased number of signing places would have contributed to a different result.

A total of £4,178 of spending was reported by the two registered campaigners to the Petition Officer. The Commission continues to recommend that candidate spending returns, and in this case petition campaigner returns, should be made available online.

Read our report on the 2018 recall petition in North Antrim.


For more information contact the Electoral Commission:

  • 028 90894028 (Out of office hours: 07789 920 414)

Extra notes

Notes to editor

  • The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
    • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
    • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
    • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy
    • aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

    The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments

  • The role of a Petition Officer is to:
    • open a recall petition
    • oversee the administration of the petition, including publishing a register of electors who can sign the petition and notifying those electors of the petition
    • declare the result, including notifying the Speaker of the House of Commons
    • receive donation and spending returns and make them available for public inspection

    The Electoral Commission’s role was to provide advice and guidance to help people running and taking part in the petition understand the rules.