Readers 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….