I was reading some of the comments on Conservative Home (it was quiet night) about Edward McMillan-Scott being expelled from the Conservative Party and noticed that many were demanding that he should resign as an MEP. The reasoning behind this is that he was elected as a Conservative MEP from the party list, and as he is no longer a member of the Conservative Party he doesn’t have the right to continue as an MEP.

Now, I’ll admit to the usual politician’s bias on this issue – if someone defects to my party, they’re doing it as a matter of principle and are committed to representing the people they represent, if they defect from it, they’re obviously shallow, venal, betraying the voters and should resign forthwith – but I’m not convinced that McMillan-Scott should resign in this case.

I’m going to try and stick to general principles here, rather than getting bogged down in the specifics of the case, but I would agree that when a person is elected on a party list, there’s a strong case that that person should be obliged to stand down should they choose to leave the party they were elected for. Perhaps not in all cases – if the party has genuinely changed from what it was when the election took place, or personal popularity had a strong effect on the vote, for instance – but in general, it would seem to me to be fair that if a person had been elected by the efforts of a party to be the representative of that party, they’re obliged to remain a member of that party if they want to keep their position.

However – and the important question in this case – is someone necessarily obliged to resign their position if their party has rejected them, rather than them rejecting their party, especially if their political position hasn’t changed, as I’m sure McMillan-Scott would argue his hasn’t? (This is assuming the old ‘I didn’t leave the party, the party left me’ to be true for once) Is it fair to allow for the dominance of the party over the individual to such an extent, even if the party list system does assume this to be case? (Is it just another argument against closed-list systems? Especially as McMillan-Scott doesn’t have the option to take this to the voters, should he so choose)

To me, the whole issue of whether defection or deselection should prompt resignation or re-election is a very large grey area regardless of the voting system – though perhaps not in STV – so I’ll throw this one open to any passing commenter for their thoughts, with apologies for any wooliness in mine as it is quite late as I’m finishing this off.

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