Idea of local parties agreeing Tory-UKIP candidates has a slight snag – electoral law won’t allow it
Having recently been given back the Conservative whip, Nadine Dorries has not wasted any time in getting back to her favourite hobby of trolling the party leadership.
Her latest wind-up has taken the form of echoing the assertion from UKIP leader Nigel Farage that Conservative MPs could in fact seek double endorsements at the general election by standing as joint Conservative-UK Independence party candidates.
The Mid Bedfordshire MP explained her thinking to the BBC: "I am a Conservative and my re-adoption would be by a Conservative party. It's not being adopted by Ukip, it's just seeking Ukip endorsement so that they don't put a candidate up against you at the next election." She went on to claim that having two logos on the ballot paper had been made possible by legislation passed by the coalition government, and seeking a UKIP endorsement was "something that I know MPs are looking forward and considering now".
Indeed, Farage told the BBC a few days earlier: “The law now allows one candidate to have the logo of more than one party [on a ballot paper], so legally if someone wanted to stand as a Tory-UKIP candidate or even a Labour-UKIP candidate that would be allowed under electoral law.”
What they’re talking about bears no reality to electoral law.
Yes, there has been a change in the law – but not one that would allow what Dorries and Farage are talking about.
The Government has indeed altered the law regarding party emblems on ballot papers. This was because prior to the change, parties that had agreed to field joint candidates were not allowed to have an emblem at all. Labour and Co-operative MPs successfully campaigned for a change.
But that doesn’t mean that local Associations now have the authority to “jointly nominate” local candidates. That can only happen if such an arrangement has been agreed at the centre, with both parties getting their nominating officers to sign form RP2 and register a joint description with the Electoral Commission. A local party may well endorse a candidate that’s nominated by another party, but it’s an informal arrangement. There would be nothing on the ballot paper to show it.
To be clear here, the “description” of a candidate on the ballot paper – what it will say under the candidate’s name to describe their party identity – is a strictly controlled part of the nomination process. Parties can only register up to 15 different descriptions with the Electoral Commission, and the description on the nomination paper must match one of those. It must match one of them exactly. If it doesn’t, the nomination paper is rejected. In 2002, 60 (yes, sixty) Lib Dem candidates in Harrow were stopped from standing at the local elections because they decided to use an un-registered description – “Liberal Democrat Focus Team”.
And for the sake of clarity, let me add that you cannot be nominated by one party and use the emblem of another.
The only way we’ll see Conservative-UKIP candidates on the ballot paper in 2015 is if David Cameron and Nigel Farage sit down over a couple of pints of Spitfire and agree to it. Nadine can get the first round in.