There are no MPs

Parliament was dissolved on Monday 12 April.  Since that day, there have been no MPs and there will not be any until we start to get the declarations following the close of polling on Thursday.  Despite that, some media still refer to a candidate as an MP.  Even The Daily Telegraph have done it this morning in a story referring to Richard Burden as the “Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield”.  He isn’t and has not been since 12 April.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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11 Responses to There are no MPs

  1. Dave H says:

    Most papers seem to manage OK most of the time – I’ve seen references to “former MP for…” or making it clear that the person concerned is seeking re-election and therefore was the MP for a constituency.

    I don’t think I’ve seen any former MPs use the title since the 12th. Is an elected member entitled to use the title MP immediately after the formal declaration, or is it necessary to wait until Parliament reconvenes?

    Given that ministers are appointed by the Queen, are they all still in their jobs or just the senior ones?

  2. Lord Norton says:

    Dave H: Since 12 April, no one has been entitled to use the title of MP. Those who sat in the last Parliament were provided with very clear instructions, not least relating to websites which may have included ‘MP’ in the title. Though Parliament has been dissolved, Her Majesty’s Government has not and (all) ministers remain as ministers until such time as a new Government is formed.

  3. Is it a given, then, that constituency affairs come to a halt during the dissolution of Parliament, too?

    That, whatever business respective MPs were able to get into the administrative channels before the election call will continue to be processed by civil servants, but any new concerns—or follow up on work-in-progress—cannot be taken up?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Stephen MacLean: Constituency correspondence continues to some degree during the period of purdah. There is guidance to civil servants regarding how to respond to such correspondence in the Cabinet Office ‘General Election Guidance 2010’. See pages 8-9 of:

      http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/354815/2010electionguidance.pdf

      • Many thanks for the Cabinet Office link, Your Lordship. Officials seem to be quite accommodating and commonsensical when it comes to dealing with constituents’ correspondence; gratifying it was to read that: ‘Clearly the main consideration must be to ensure that the citizen’s interests are not prejudiced.’

        Another positive aspect must be the relatively short electioneering period; if Wikipedia is correct, then 17 days after the Royal Proclamation in the United Kingdom, as compared to a minimum of 36 days in Canada—with examples of campaigns lasting from 47-57 days, and one in 1926 lasting 74 days! Granted, with a federal system, citizens aren’t being ‘ignored by the State’ since the provinces soldier on—and no one wants elections for the two levels to coincide—but still! Anyone awaiting actions from the federal constituency level during a long election campaign would almost go mad.

        The matter of constituency affairs was the subject of much media attention following the death of Senator Edward Kennedy last summer.

  4. Carl.H says:

    There are many ex-MP`s still using the title on websites. I did try to put up a list but too many links I guess. I got to “F” from a list of ex-Labour MP`s and found 10 still stating MP without any disclaimer.

    Others had a disclaimer stating

    “This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. As Parliament has been dissolved there are no Members of Parliament until after the election on 6th May 2010.”

    Most of the ex-Front benchers had no reference to being an MP but had candidate.

    The ones I found still with MP in the title were

    george galloway

    ian austin

    john battle

    colin challen

    katy clarkmp

    david-clelland

    jon cruddas.

    brian donohoemp

    caroline flint

    michael foster

    I only got as far as “F” if anyone wants to look some more try :

    http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/lists/labour-mps-online/

  5. The Duke of Waltham says:

    One of Dave H.’s questions has not been answered, and I wonder about that as well: when exactly can the new MPs start using the title and post-nominals?

    • Croft says:

      Since parliament could still I believe refuse to seat an MP I would assume that technically they have to wait to swear the oath and been seated. Then again as MP is a post nominal of custom and not based on a specific royal warrant establishing use your guess is…

    • Lord Norton says:

      The Duke of Waltham: Once the returning officer has declared someone duly elected, then they are the Member of Parliament for that constituency. As Croft says, it is always possible for the House to refuse to seat an MP (and there was debate as to what to do with Sinn Fein MPs who refused to swear the oath) and it is always possible that an MP could be unseated by an election court. The most recent (and in the event temporary) case was the late Fiona Jones in Newark. The more celebrated if somewhat older case is that of Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn (now known as Tony Benn) when he became Viscount Stansgate.

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