Friday, 24 October 2014

One does not simply resign as a Member of Parliament

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One does not simply resign as a Member of Parliament

As you may well have noticed, two erstwhile Tory MPs recently decided to quit their membership of the House of Commons in order to contest the resultant by-elections as UKIP candidates. Amidst this very British slight-revolution, the eagle-eyed Lex 100 spotted the use of an obscure ancient law and decided to wipe away the dust and give it a good 21st century airing.

Under a law passed in 1624, Members of Parliament are forbidden from simply resigning. They do, of course, but they are not allowed to do it simply. The procedural trick that MPs must therefore partake in is to accept a paid office of the Crown.

Hence, when Douglas Carswell announced that he was standing down as MP of Clacton he was quickly appointed by the Chancellor as the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – lucky him. This scandalous moonlighting was enough to earn him automatic disqualification from the House of Commons, allowing him to stand in the by-election for his former seat. He went on to win the October 9th contest and returned to the House as the first elected UKIP MP.

Keen to follow Carswell as the recipient of a bizarre, utterly meaningless title, Mark Reckless quit and was duly proclaimed the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern. He will run again for the vacant Rochester and Strood seat on November 20th.

This may seem archaic and convoluted, but at least things have been updated a little bit. In the past, whenever an MP was appointed as a Minister they were automatically forced into a re-election battle for their seat, as technically they were also taking up a Crown office which could, in theory, conflict with their duties as an MP. Westminster politics was deemed chaotic enough without these constant re-elections so this rule has since been relaxed. Thankfully for us, however, some ridiculous traditions remain intact – giving us something to raise an intrigued eyebrow to over a lunch-time ham sandwich.

Read 2138 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 08:56