Voters in Portsmouth South deserve a chance to pass their verdict on disgraced MP Mike Hancock “the sooner the better”, David Cameron said.
The Prime Minister stopped short of saying Mr Hancock should quit Parliament after being forced to apologise to a vulnerable woman constituent for making improper sexual advances.
But he made clear that the Conservatives are prepared to fight the seat immediately if he was to stand down.
The Prime Minister appeared to indicate that the case of the former Liberal Democrat MP –currently sitting as an independent – might be the kind covered by the new power of recall which he is planning to introduce.
Legislation going through Parliament would allow voters to force a by-election if their MP is jailed for less than a year or the Commons finds that they are guilty of serious wrongdoing.
Mr Hancock issued a public apology in the High Court earlier this week as part of a confidential settlement in which the woman, who suffers from mental health problems, brought a claim for damages against him.
He has already had the Liberal Democrat whip withdrawn in Parliament and his party membership suspended, and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has called on him to resign from the party.
Asked whether Mr Hancock should now step down as an MP, Mr Cameron told BBC Radio Solent: “From everything I’ve seen, this is a pretty dreadful case. Obviously my view is the sooner that Portsmouth South can have a hard-working Conservative MP, in Flick Drummond, the better.
“But it’s not for me to say when people should resign and should do this or do the other. I think Portsmouth deserves good representation in Parliament and I know that Flick is ready to stand forward whenever Hancock stands down, whether that’s now or at the election.”
Asked whether he regarded Mr Hancock as a fit person to be an MP, Mr Cameron said: “We do have processes in our Parliament and we are improving them by introducing the concept of recall where, if someone is criticised by the Standards Committee, people can have a petition locally to re-run that election. I think that’s going to be an improvement to our democracy.
“There are real questions he has to answer and frankly from my perspective the sooner the people of Portsmouth South can get a proper choice, the better for them, I think.”