You may stand for political election as a local councillor, a Member of Parliament (in the Scottish, UK or European Parliaments), or as an Assembly Member (in Wales or Northern Ireland) from the age of 18. However, some of the other eligibility requirements vary from one office to another.
Candidates for local council and London Assembly elections must have their name on the local electoral register, rent or own land or property in the area, or have worked or lived in the area for the past twelve months.
Candidates for the European and Scottish Parliaments, and for the Assemblies of Wales and Northern Ireland, must also be a British or Irish citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of any other member state of the European Union. However, citizens of most European Union states other than the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, are not eligible to stand for election as a Member of Parliament in London.
In some of the elections, members of certain occupations, such as civil servants, the police, and the armed forces, are barred from standing. For example, an individual cannot usually stand for election to a local council if s/he is an employee of that council.
Although people sometimes stand as an independent candidate in an election, most candidates at local, national or European level stand for election as representatives of a political party.
If you wish to follow this route, you’ll need to join the party of your choice and then get involved with the party locally or at some other level; and it’s then up to the party to decide whether to choose you as a candidate. This will almost always involve some kind of selection process in which local members decide on the candidate of their choice.
Candidates for election must complete a set of nomination papers. Some elections, for example to the UK Parliament, also require candidates to have the signatures of a number of registered electors from the ward or constituency in which they are standing.
Candidates standing in other than local elections are required to pay a deposit, which is returned to them in full if they succeed in obtaining more than a certain percentage of the vote.
Whatever kind of political office you hold, you will be expected to attend council, Assembly or Parliamentary meetings and to listen to and, where possible, deal with your constituents’ concerns.
You may also be required to join various committees, supporting the work of the council, Assembly or Parliament.
Local councillors do not receive a salary, but they are given an allowance in recognition of their expenses and the time they spend on council business. Rates vary from one council to another. You can find out more on this from your local council’s website.
However, other elected members – Members of the Scottish, UK, and European Parliaments, along with Members of the London, Northern Ireland and Welsh Assemblies – all receive salaries for the work that they do.