What if a candidate dies?

Ballot-Paper-300x150Readers may recall that in the 2005 general election, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Staffordshire South died and the election in the seat was deferred.   A friend asked me recently why, following the death of former Eurovision singer, Ronnie Carroll, who had been nominated as a candidate in the current election, the election in the seat was not called off until a later date.  The answer is because Ronnie Carroll was not a candidate of a registered party.  Under section 24 of  the 2006 Electoral Administration Act, a returning officer must countermand notice of the poll if a candidate dies and that candidate is standing in the name of a registered political party.  However, if the candidate is not standing under the name of a registered party (and there are more than two candidates contesting the seat), then the election proceeds as scheduled.  (I was going to write ‘as normal’, but it is not normal to have a dead candidate on the ballot paper.)  The 2006 Act does make provision for what happens should the deceased candidate win the election, namely a fresh election.

The Act also makes provision for what happens if the Speaker seeking re-election dies during the election.  However, it makes no separate provision for what happens if a candidate contesting the same constituency dies.  In such a situation, the above rules apply.  If it is a candidate of a registered party, then the election is delayed.  However, it creates an interesting conundrum if the candidate dies on or shortly before the day of the general election, since the delay stipulated under the Act means that the Speaker may not be elected as an MP until after the new House of Commons has met for the purpose of electing a Speaker.  One could end up with a new Speaker being elected by MPs, with the previous Speaker being returned as the Speaker seeking re-election.  That would create an interesting situation….

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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4 Responses to What if a candidate dies?

  1. Jonathan says:

    Of course, it could also happen to a Prime Minister, if a candidate in the same constituency who represented a party died. Presumably, the Queen would have to invite someone else to form the government.

    Going back to the case of the Speaker, when the election is run at a later date, are only the same parties/candidates as on the original ballot paper allowed to stand? If a new Speaker had already been chosen, could the parties nominate candidates to stand against the former Speaker? And could the former speaker choose to represent a party in the new poll?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Jonathan: PM could carry on as PM, as no requirement to be a parliamentarian. On the Speaker, only the candidate of the registered party who has died can be replaced. The other candidates remain as originally nominated.

  2. tizres says:

    Blimey, that’s as Machiavellian as expecting the Chairman of Ways and Means to stand down in favour of a DUP member.

  3. maude elwes says:

    This thread brought to mind Blair and Brown. Of course Blair didn’t die…. or did he? But, he handed over directly to Brown, without getting a mandate from the public to do so. As if he had in fact died.

    What I mean is this, the electorate voted overwhelmingly for Blair the person, and, of course at his pretence of telling the truth about his parties polcies and promising, as he did, he was going to save us all from Major’s Tory mistakes. Brown would never have been elected had he stood at that time as he didn’t have what it takes, and both of them new it. So they took it into their own hands to decide, on account of the deal they had with each other, to hand the crown over as if they were a monarchy. Democracy being something neither of them cared about or even considered. By that time people were tired of Blair and his treachery taking us, once again, to war on behalf of the duplicitous yanks and his pocket filling expectation. He new he better sell his position as a back stabber to his country before he lost face altogether. Which would leave him without a method of filling his pocket as an outed con man.

    What I am getting at is this, these two people we currently have running for office are ‘equal’ in that they are both uncharismatic and less than desirable as possible leaders. They don’t have the X factor. So, they are having to run on the ideology or policies being offered by their parties. And, from what the polls tell us, we are not swallowing the bait. In fact, it appears very few promises from either side are wanted by the majority. 1) No one believes a word they say because they have campaigned on half truths and refusal to answer any legitimate probes. 2) Most people feel that even if they do like one or two of what it is these two are offering, the likelyhood is they will do what they have always done, and renege on the deal the morning after the vote is counted.

    What the citizens appear to have done, because these people are not leaders who remotely expose sincerity, is work out that what it is they are truly asking us for is to condone what they gave us during their time in office. In other words, they want our consent to continue to ignore our voice. Whilst, at the same time, making sure there are no other in any group, except the SNP
    leader, who will be able to get a look in, They know they stand no chance against a straight speaker in a debate, let alone on their record in office. Back to the example of conspiracy between Blair and Brown.

    It is therefore horrendous that those who run this show have the cajones to expect us to back five more years of willful deceit, as recall is no longer on the cards. And during that five years, either man could hand over to any other ‘loser’ they have made a deal with, to stay quiet long enough for them to make a big enough pretense at offering direction for money on departure. Lets face it, Cameron has already said he is backing others to take over from him, by shoving them forward as ‘his boys of tomorrow.’ As has Miliband. And what a motley crew they are. Leaving the public facing yet another prospect of no single person being capable of, or desire to, lead them out of the abyss these people have forcibly, by ommision, taken them into.

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