How to Resign from Parliament

 

I don’t understand the Iowa caucuses. It seems an awful lot of effort to stand around in a church hall for a couple of hours to elect some delegates who will just vote for whoever they like anyway (this happened in 2012 when Republicans voted for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul ended up getting the majority of the Iowa delegate vote). I’m sure it makes sense if you are from Iowa though. But it’s not like Iowa is alone in its strange constitutonal quirks: for one thing, Andorra is the only country in the world whose monarch is elected democratically… by another country’s citizens (the president of France is a co-monarch with a catalonian bishop).

But even closer to home, even our own Parliament is a bit odd.

In the United Kingdom parliament, a Member of Parliament may not simply hand in their notice and resign- this is because Members were trusted by those electing them to represent them so resignation would be against their duty (that doesn’t stop certain members standing for election with no intention of representing their constituents in the first place). In olden times, election was often against the candidate’s will so resignation would have been quite a real threat.

But, there are always ways out. It’s illegal to resign, but it’s even more illegal to be a direct employee of the Crown and stand in Parliament.

So, when an MP needs to stand down and force a by-election, they may apply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to one of two crown offices:

Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds
Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead

The Chiltern Hundreds are located near Reading and represent a portion of land ruled by a steward who would enforce the law and by legally answerable to the monarch.

Similarly to the manor of Northstead, sounds grand, but which is in fact now a park in Scarborough.

Neither requires the incumbent to actually do anything except not show up for parliament any more.

Resignation has happened for any number of reasons: ill health, a political scandal, pursuing a career elsewhere, standing to become elected in a different country or devolved government, or to make a protest against some policy; it’s rarely denied.

The offices perhaps raised the most eyebrows when Gerry Adams resigned from Parliament a few years ago to stand for the Dáil in Ireland. Having expressed his desire to stand down, he was appointed to one the roles which meant he was directly employed by Her Majesty- not being known for his appreciation of monarchy,  he never actually claimed the title and indeed it was clarified later on that he never actually accepted it, rather that it was thrust upon him: a similar scenario befell Martin McGuinness a few years later.

And you thought Black Rod was daft.

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