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Sunday, July 20, 2008

You could not make it up

The Sunday Times reports that the Government is thinking of reforming an age-old law:

Ministers are preparing to allow people labelled “idiots” and “lunatics” by archaic laws to stand for parliament.

Though it may come as a surprise to voters, laws dating back to Elizabethan times bar this category of people from becoming MPs.

Idiots are defined as those “incapable of gaining reason” and lunatics as people only “capable of periods of lucidity”.

The rules ban lunatics from standing as MPs in “their non lucid intervals”. They also ban anyone sectioned under the Mental Health Act from standing for parliament, even if they have made a recovery.

MPs have to give up their seat for life if they are sectioned for six months.

Bridget Prentice, the justice minister, is to consult on scrapping the laws after complaints from MPs and mental health charities that they are discriminatory.

“People who have suffered mental health problems can function at a very high level,” said a spokesman for Mind, the mental health charity. “Look at [the actor] Stephen Fry. He has been open about his manic depression and people would be shocked if somebody like him were not eligible to stand.”

A survey of MPs found that 27% had experience of a mental health problem. One in three said the stigma had stopped them being open about it.

Now how many voters would believe you if you told them that such a law existed? Clearly, the terms in which the law was framed are out-of-date and no longer resonate as have public attitudes to mental health issues. There is though a certain attraction to a restriction which says that only those capable of lucidity should be allowed to seek elective office.
I agree that this law should be scrapped. Not only does it discrimnate against people with mental health problems but it has also proved to be spectacularly unsuccesful; Parliament is stuffed full of idiots.
The report in the Sunday Times is incorrect. The relevant section of the Mental Health Act (s.141)sets out a procedure for vacating the seat of an MP who has been detained in hospital for over six months. This is not unreasonable. There is nothing in law to prevent the ex MP from standing again.
Well, the NHS rarely keeps anyone in hospital more than 2 weeks let alone 6 months!

Isn't this just another smoke screen put out by Gordon Brown who thinks he can smoke screen us while taxes British citizens/residents to death.
I understand that if you come out of jail, you can stand the next day for MP, while if you've been given a sentence of three months or more, even if suspended you would be barred from standing for County Councillor.

Perhaps us lib dems who intend going to prison for not carrying an ID card when (not if) they are introduced will have to stand for Parliment rather than County Council?
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