Voters have a right to elect misogynists and racists as MPs, a Tory MP has said amid a debate over standards.
Desmond Swayne, who represents New Forest West, was responding to recent recommendations by parliament’s standards committee which suggested MPs should demonstrate “anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity”.
Swayne said that while he hoped his constituents would not vote for people with sexist and racist views, “they have a right to do so”.
“The principle of democracy is undermined by the requirement that we may be required to subscribe to behaviours to promote certain attitudes,” he told the Commons.
“I hope that my constituents never elect a racist or a misogynist, but they have a right to do so.”
Earlier this week the standards committee, chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant, released a report with recommendations on how to tighten the rules around MPs’ standards — an area that has come under the spotlight in the wake of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal.
Among the recommendations, which are out for consultation, was that an eighth principle of “respect” be added to the seven principles of public life, in which MPs would be asked to “demonstrate anti-discriminatory attitudes and behaviours through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity”.
The committee also suggested that a new rule be added to the code of conduct to prohibit an MP from subjecting anyone to “unreasonable and excessive personal attacks” in any medium.
That proposal was also picked up by Tory MP Mark Francois, who took issue with it on the grounds he believed it infringed on article nine of the Bill of Rights — freedom of speech and debate.
Conservative MP Mark Francois said a proposal that would add a new rule to the code of conduct banning MPs from subjecting anyone to unreasonable and excessive personal attack in any medium is “dangerous”.
“This seriously impinges on article nine of the Bill of Rights if you take this literally,” he said, adding: “This is actually dangerous and it shouldn’t appear in the final version.”
In response, Bryant said article nine is clear that no proceeding in parliament “should be impeached or questioned in a court of law or any other place”.
He said “it may be that this rule isn’t perfectly worded as it is now” but that “it just seems odd that we would want to argue that we have to continue the right to make unreasonable and excessive attacks on others”.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.