21 May 2009

Does the date of the Speaker’s resignation help Brown?

The Speaker has now confirmed that he not remain an MP when he stands down as Speaker on 21st June .  Fair enough.  Today the Commons rises for Whitsun returning on 1st June.  That week many MPs will remain in their constituencies due to the elections, giving just two weeks for the candidates to drum up support before the vote on 22nd June.  On the surface all seems reasonable, but I wonder.

By convention, although not a statutory requirement, the writ for a by-election should be issued within three months of a seat becoming vacant and this usually happens when the Commons is sitting.  Once the writ is moved the election takes place after about 19 days, not including weekends and public holidays.  See here for the details.  The Commons rises for the Summer on 21st July and returns on 12th October.  Therefore, if this three month convention is upheld the by-election has to be called before the Summer recess.

The Times is reporting:

Gerry Leonard, who was Mr Martin’s election agent and who is also chairman of the constituency Labour Party, told BBC Radio Scotland that if a by-election took place, he would expect it to be in September, although there was “a chance” it could be in the summer.

If my understanding is correct the by-election can’t, therefore, be in September.  From Brown’s point of view, July would be favoured and he could time the by-election for Thursday 23rd July, after the Commons rises for the Summer.

It may be worth speculating if the date that Michael Martin’s resignation becoming effective has been deliberately timed.  The by-election would be held at a time when it will do the least political damage to Brown if, as expected, Labour do badly.

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  1. Brown does everything with an eye to how it could help him.

    Even bottling.

  2. That strategy didn't work very well with Glasgow East, did it.