Saturday, December 31, 2011

Roger Helmer may not resign after all

This blog has taken an interest in Rupert Matthews ever since Roger Helmer announced that he would be resigning from the European Parliament today, 31 December 2011. That is because Matthews was the highest ranked Tory candidate for the East Midlands not to be elected in the last Euro elections.

However, it has emerged that Conservative high command has concerns about Matthews and might prefer to see someone else as the new MEP for the East Midlands. Already the Derby Telegraph has reported that Helmer will be delaying his resignation until around 15 January because of the uncertainty over his successor.

Now Guido Fawkes (with the help of italics and red ink that I do not reproduce here) is suggesting that he will not resign at all:
Helmer’s resignation was supposed to be effective of today, but as party chairman Sayeeda Warsi is apparently insisting on someone other than Matthews, apparently “a less-geeky woman”, takes over, Helmer has decided to dig his boots in. 
A European c0-conspiritor (sic.) told Guido last night “Roger won’t be going anywhere unless Rupert is guaranteed.” CCHQ sources insist that they won’t be budging on this one, so it looks like Helmer will be staying. Once again, the Tory high-command’s gender-agenda has created an almighty mess…
The Conservatives' regional chairman yesterday told the Derby Telegraph that no investigation has taken place, but I am not convinced that he would have been told about it.

All of which does raise a serious point... Is it automatic that the first unelected candidate on a regional list fills a vacancy created by someone from his or her party resigning? Or does a party have the power to nominate someone else?

Later. The BBC quotes Roger Helmer as confirming that he is postponing his resignation:
"There do seem to have been one or two administrative queries arising with central office over the succession to the seat. 
"Naturally, I want to get those sorted out before I formalise my resignation."


Richard Gadsden said...

The nominating officer of the party must approve their succession. If the nominating officer does not approve them, then they go further down the list.

If they run out of list, then I believe that there is a by-election, but I'm not sure.

Richard Gadsden said...

I have fuller and better particulars now.

The European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 specifies that only someone on the same list as the resigning or dead MEP can replace them, but that the details will be covered in regulations.

The European Parliamentary Elections Regulations 2004 make the details clear. The Secretary of State or the Lord President (at the moment, the Lord President, ie Nick Clegg) informs the Returning Officer that there is a vacancy. The RO contacts the next person on the list and gives them a deadline. If they have responded saying they want the job by the deadline, and they have included "a certificate signed by or on behalf of the nominating officer of the registered party which submitted the relevant list stating that he may be returned as that party’s MEP" then they become an MEP forthwith. Otherwise, once the deadline expires (or if they write back refusing the seat), the Returning Officer writes to the next person on the list and so on until the list is complete.

If the seat doesn't get filled at all, then there is a by-election (by region-wide FPTP).

The seats cannot stay vacant for more than six months regardless.

The net effect is that Rupert Matthews can delay Fiona Bulmer getting the seat by refusing to respond to the Returning Officer's letter, but by no more than a couple of weeks.

Mark Pack said...

Richard's right. See and note 83 2(b)