Friday, April 17, 2009

Eligibility for Parliament

A colleague sent me the following stats about sitting MPs in South Africa.

29 have been accused of spousal abuse
7 have been arrested for fraud
19 have been accused of writing bad cheques
117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
3 have done time for assault
71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
8 have been arrested for shoplifting
21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year

Puts Jacqui Smith's pay per view pr0n in perspective! Anyway this led me to wonder what restrictions were placed on eligibility to stand for parliament in the UK.

One would have thought that at the very least crimes that speak to a lack of integrity in the person standing (e.g. Fraud) and crimes that indicate psychosis (e.g. Murder) might disqualify people from standing.

Interestingly there isn't really a clear list though. Certain things are enshrined in different bits of legislation. So insanity does prevent you from standing (so murderers and rapists might be prevented from becoming MPs depending on their mental health classification). Treason and being bankrupt also prevent you from being an MP. But being convicted for fraud doesn't appear to, which appears to be a pretty bad oversight.

I agree that people shouldn't be prevented from standing based on spent past transgressions that aren't indicative of current behaviour. (e.g. shoplifting as a teenager, speeding, having a bar fight, taking drugs etc) But crimes which indicate a complete lack of moral fibre (rather than just social deprivement) really ought to get you banned from standing.

Also currently if you commit a crime that gets you sent to jail whilst serving as a UK MP, you only lose your seat if you are imprisoned for a year or more.... Surely it should be a maximum of a month - you can hardly serve your constituents well from inside a cell.

No comments: