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Guidance for Candidates & Agents

The Electoral Commission has published a basic PDF download Factsheet on Standing as a Candidate a 119 page set of notes for The 2010 UK Parliamentary general elections in Great Britain which you can also download as a PDF. If possible print this out and use it for reference purposes.

While the following summary extracts key points that affect your Candidacy, there are other things you need to know about standing and what you must do after the election.

Summary

The following paragraphs provide basic information on standing as a candidate
and where to find further information on election expenses and donation controls, as
well as guidance on what to do after the results have been announced.

Can you stand for election to the UK Parliament?

In order to stand for election you must meet the required qualifications, i.e. be
at least 18 years old and be either:

  • a British citizen
  • a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, or
  • a citizen of a Commonwealth country who does not require leave to enter or remain in the UK, or who has indefinite leave to remain in the UK

There is no requirement for you to be a registered elector in the UK.

However, you must make sure that you are not disqualified from becoming a
Member of the UK Parliament. You should consult the relevant legislation2 to ensure
that none of the disqualifications apply, and if in doubt, always seek your own
legal advice.

Anyone wishing to stand for election should be clear about the qualifications
and disqualifications that apply. More detailed guidance is provided in Part B,

‘Running for election’

When do you become a candidate?

Electoral law provides various definitions of the word ‘candidate’ and you can
become a candidate for different purposes at different times. You need to be
aware of when you can become a candidate for the purposes of obtaining the
electoral register (see Part B, Chapter 3, paragraphs 3.11–12). You can also find
further information on becoming a ‘validly nominated’ candidate in Part B, Chapter 3,
paragraphs 3.14-65.

Only ‘validly nominated’ candidates will have their names added to the ballot paper.
You may campaign and refer to yourself as a ‘candidate’ from the moment you
intend to stand, but it is not until the dissolution of Parliament that someone can
become a candidate for the purposes of obtaining the electoral register.

However, for your name to be added to a ballot paper, you must also become a ‘validly nominated’
candidate.

You become ‘validly nominated’ once you have submitted a completed set of nomination papers, together with a deposit of £500, to the (Acting) Returning Officer before the close of nominations.
2 HoCDA.

Other relevant pieces of legislation include: the RPA 1981, the RPA 1983, the Insolvency
Act 1986, the House of Lords Act 1999 and the Enterprise Act 2002.6 Part A, Chapter 2

Irrespective of when you formally become a candidate for the purposes of
obtaining the electoral register or being validly nominated, you must record
and report your election expenses from 1 January 2010. I

The (Acting) Returning Officer is the person responsible for the administration
of the election in your constituency. In this guide, (Acting) Returning Officer is used
to refer to both the Acting Returning Officer in England and Wales and the Returning
Officer in Scotland. Part B, Chapter 2, ‘Who is responsible for the election?’ explains
the roles and responsibilities in detail. Contact details can be obtained from the
relevant Commission office. Telephone numbers and email addresses for the
Commission’s offices are provided earlier in this Part A, Chapter 1, ‘Introduction’.

You should be aware that the UK Parliamentary general election timetable is extremely tight and that deadlines for becoming validly nominated are fixed and the (Acting) Returning Officer cannot move these for any reason. They will be stated in a notice published by the (Acting) Returning Officer called the notice of election. A generic election timetable is provided for your information in Part B, Chapter 1, ‘The deadlines’.

Forms you must submit to become ‘validly nominated’

All the required forms must be submitted before 4pm on the eleventh working
day before the poll for your nomination to be valid. A step-by-step guide to
the nominations process is provided in Part B, Chapter 3, ‘Running for
election’.

You should be aware that it is a serious offence to include false information on any of
your nomination forms. Anyone found guilty of such an offence may be sentenced to
imprisonment for up to a year, or face an unlimited fine, or both. The election may
also be invalidated as a result.

You must complete and submit the following forms:

  • a nomination paper
  • a home address form
  • your consent to nomination

If you wish to stand on behalf of a registered political party and use their
emblem and name, or any of the party’s registered descriptions, you must also
submit the following:

  • certificate of authorisation to use a party name or description
  • an emblem request form

These forms are collectively known as ‘nomination papers’ and can all be
obtained, along with any other relevant forms, from the (Acting) Returning Officer.

They will also be available from the Commission’s website at
www.electoralcommission.org.uk/guidance/those-we-regulate/candidates-andagents.

How to complete your nomination forms

Nomination paper

The nomination paper must contain your name and must be signed by 10
electors from the constituency, known as subscribers.

Once the UK Parliament has been dissolved and you or others declare you to
be a candidate you will be entitled to a free copy of the electoral register. The
register allows you to check that your subscribers are in fact registered electors in
the constituency. The Electoral Registration Officer(s) for the constituency will supply
you with a copy on making a request in writing. Contact details can be obtained from
your (Acting) Returning Officer or from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.

Home address form

On this form you must state your home address in full. If you do not want your

address to be made public and to appear on the ballot paper, you must state the
constituency in which your home address is situated or, if you live outside the UK,
the country in which you live.

Consent to nomination

You will also have to complete a consent to nomination form. You will be asked
to give your date of birth and declare that you are not disqualified from being elected.
You will also need a witness to attest the form.

Descriptions and emblems

The nomination paper allows you to enter a description. This description will
appear under your details on the ballot paper.

You may use the word ‘Independent’ (and/or ‘Annibynnol’ in a constituency in
Wales) or you may choose not to use a description at all and leave that part of the
nomination paper and the ballot paper blank.

If you are a party candidate, you may use a description, but this must be either
one of the descriptions registered by your party with the Commission or the
registered name of your party. You must also supply a certificate of authorisation
signed by your party’s Nominating Officer (or a person appointed by them to act on
their behalf).

If you are standing on behalf of a party and wish to have a registered party
emblem printed on the ballot paper next to your name, you must also sign and
submit an emblem request form before the close of nominations.

Delivering the forms

You or your election agent should check the arrangements for the delivery of
nomination papers with the (Acting) Returning Officer. Nomination papers can only
be delivered between 10am and 4pm on the days stated on the notice of election.

The sooner nomination papers are submitted, the better. Early submission will
give you sufficient time to fill in and submit a new set of forms if you have made a
mistake that has invalidated your nomination.

Nomination papers can only be delivered in person and by certain people:

  • you
  • your election agent
  • one of the first two subscribers shown on the nomination paper, who are also known as the proposer and seconder

Paying the deposit

By the close of nominations the (Acting) Returning Officer must have
received the £500 deposit for your nomination to be valid. Payment
arrangements should be checked well in advance with the (Acting) Returning
Officer.

The deposit will be returned to you if you gain more than 5% of the total valid
votes cast in the constituency. See Part B, Chapter 3, paragraphs 3.64–7 for further
guidance on the deposit.

What types of agents are there and what do they do?

There are different categories of agents, although it is the election agent who
will be the person responsible in law for managing all your election finances.
Make sure you select someone you feel you can trust to act as your election
agent. Further details about all agents’ roles and responsibilities and how to appoint
them can be found in Part B, Chapter 2, paragraphs 2.9–41.

Election agents

Every candidate must have an election agent – although you can act as your
own election agent if you wish. The deadline for appointing an election agent is the
close of nominations. If no agent is appointed by that time, you will automatically
become your own election agent, but you may revoke your appointment and appoint
someone else later.

The election agent is the person responsible in law for the proper management
of your election campaign. In particular, the election agent is responsible for all the
financial aspects of your election. An election could be brought into question if your
election agent does not perform their duties promptly and correctly.

Sub-agents

To assist them with their duties, election agents in county constituencies can
appoint sub-agents for particular parts of the constituency, as long as those parts do
not overlap. Your (Acting) Returning Officer will be able to advise you whether or not
the constituency you intend to stand in is a county constituency.

Postal vote opening, polling and counting agents

You, or your agent, can also appoint people to observe proceedings on your
behalf at postal vote openings, on polling day in polling stations and at the count.

Free resources available to you as a candidate

Once Parliament has been dissolved and you have declared yourself a
candidate, you will be entitled to a free copy of the electoral register and to
use public meeting rooms free of charge.

After becoming validly nominated, i.e. after submitting your nomination papers and deposit, you will also be entitled to post, free of charge, an election communication to electors in the constituency. You
will, however, be responsible for printing costs. For further guidance, see Part B,
Chapter 4, paragraphs 4.1–19.

The electoral register

As a candidate, you will be entitled to a free copy of the full electoral register for
the constituency you are contesting (including absent voters lists). The register can
be used to ensure that your nomination papers are completed correctly, to assist you
with your campaign and to check that any donations received are permissible. The
request for the register must be made in writing; the (Acting) Returning Officer or the
relevant Electoral Registration Officer(s) will be able to provide you with a form for
this purpose.

Use of rooms for public meetings

As a candidate you will be entitled to use certain rooms free of charge to hold
public meetings. The (Acting) Returning Officer will be able to provide you with a list
of the rooms available in the constituency.

Such meetings can be held between the day the (Acting) Returning Officer
receives the legal document that requires them to hold an election (known as ‘the
writ’) and the day before polling day.

While you will not need to pay for hiring the venue, you will need to cover
running costs such as heating or lighting.

Freepost

As a ‘validly nominated’ candidate you will be entitled to free postage for one
election communication to electors in your constituency.

You should consult Royal Mail’s guidance on candidate mailings at
www.royalmail.com/candidatemail for more details.

What you need to consider when producing campaign publicity
materials

All printed election publicity must carry an imprint with details of the name
and postal address of the printer and promoter of the material. Further
examples and information are provided in Part B, Chapter 4,
paragraphs 4.23–37.

Campaign publicity material is subject to a number of restrictions under
electoral law. For example, no campaign publicity material may resemble a poll card
or contain a false statement about the personal character or conduct of a candidate.

You can make any statement about politics or another candidate’s or party’s policies,
but you need to be aware that campaign publications are subject to the general civil
and criminal law. They must not contain statements or comments that constitute
libel, otherwise you could be liable to serious legal action. Statements or comments
that incite violence and/or hatred would also leave you liable to criminal action.

What are the limits on spending and what donations are allowed?

As a candidate, you are subject to spending limits during the regulated period
ahead of the election. You can only accept donations worth more than £50
from certain UK-based sources.

Advice on what counts towards your election spending and which donations you can
accept is provided in Part C.

You must record spending on your election campaign from 1 January 2010.

The regulated period is split into two sections:

  • the long campaign, which starts on 1 January 2010 and ends on the date that
    Parliament is dissolved
  • the short campaign, which starts on the day you become a candidate for the
    purposes of obtaining the electoral register and ends on polling day

There are different spending limits for each period. Further guidance is
provided in Part C, Chapter 2, ‘The spending limits – when they apply and how much
you can spend’.

There are also rules about who you can accept donations from, and you must
report all donations received with a value over £50. For general information on what
counts as a donation and what to do if you receive one, please see Part C,
Chapter 4, ‘How to deal with donations’.

Attending electoral proceedings

Both you and your election agent are entitled to attend the following electoral
proceedings:

  • the delivery of nomination papers (but only from the point that your nomination paper has been delivered)
  • postal vote openings
  • the poll
  • the count

For a description of the proceedings and an explanation of what you and your
election agent may and may not do while observing them, please see Part B,
Chapter 2, paragraphs 2.9–41; Chapter 3, paragraphs 3.68–76; and Chapter 5,
‘Postal voting opening sessions, the poll and the count.
What to do after the election