Parliamentary candidates can now keep their home addresses secret

A few months ago there was quite a controversy in Parliament over attempts to allow MPs to keep their home addresses secret at election time. A large part of the controversy stemmed from the unsatisfactory way part of the debate was handled in Parliament – which fuelled suspicion about some MPs wanting to keep their addresses secret in order to make it harder for people to work out whether they were exploiting rules over Parliamentary expenses.

Anyway, after debate back and forth the law was changed and the new rules are now in force, courtesy of the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009. These rules only apply to Parliamentary elections and by-elections, so the first outing for them is likely to be in the by-election to replace Michael Martin.

What, then, do the rules say?

Candidates will no longer have to provide their home address on the nomination paper, but instead will put it on a separate form. They can then opt to have their full address left off both the statement of persons nominated and ballot papers. In that case, the constituency – or, if they live outside the UK, the country – in which they live will be used instead.

If they do opt out in this way, the form with their home address can still be inspected by, amongst other people, the agents of other candidates. There will therefore be an opportunity to check up on questions of dubious nominations.

Alternatively, candidates can stick with the existing rules and have their full address appear on both the ballot papers and on the statement of persons nominated.

Although I’m very dubious about the arguments deployed as to why Parliamentary candidates should be able to withhold their addresses, the law we’ve ended up with should work reasonably. Candidates can chose whether or not to exercise the option, they can explain their choices to the public, the choices will be obvious on the ballot paper and the public can then be swayed or not as they wish.

With one Parliamentary by-election pending and a general election at most only a few months away, we will soon see if that is how things turn out.

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This entry was posted in Election law and News.
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8 Comments

  • It will be interesting to see how many people do chose to keep the address secret. I would have thought that if you are standing in Blogstown North but actually lived in Blogstown South West that it would be better to have an address than something saying you lived in a different constituency.

  • Ruth Bright 11th Sep '09 - 3:25pm

    Outrageous. It wasn’t always fun having a public home address as a parliamentary candidate – people calling in with their casework when I was breastfeeding/changing nappies/hadn’t got my face on, but that’s tough – it’s part of it. I knew where all my ‘constituents’ lived they had a right to know where I lived.

  • Andrew Suffield 11th Sep '09 - 5:16pm

    I will be interested to see how long it takes before a website springs up that lists all the candidates with ‘secret’ addresses and what those addresses are.

    It’s generally impractical to hide where you live from people who live in the same town.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Sep '09 - 9:35pm

    Indeed. In the Lords we denounced the proposals as being wrong in principle (“outrageous” is a bit softer than things I said about it) and ridiculed it as unworkable (not possible to hide nowadays in the age of the internet).

    But as I pointed out any candidate keeping their address secret will be open to denunciation in the campaign – and subject to rumour. On the other hand – “I live here, my address and phone number are in the Phone Book, and you always know where to find me when you need me.”

    Tony Greaves

  • Davis Chappell 12th Sep '09 - 10:04am

    So, presumably all candidates who do not wish to disclose their home address will also not appear on an electoral roll anywhere?

  • Terry Gilbert 14th Sep '09 - 9:15pm

    The only reason I can see for hiding one’s address as a Parliamentary Candidate, unless you are being very seriously stalked by someone the police consider dangerous, is to draw attention to the fact that you are a third place no-hoper who lives outside the constituency and you actually hope people will vote for another candidate to keep the Tories out/get rid of Labour (delete according to preference). Otherwise ‘twould be madness!

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