In the recent council elections, Sandy Thornton stood and was elected as a Conservative Councillor in Fortissat Ward, with 13.3% of the vote in a four-seat ward.

The win came as a bit of a surprise to him. He is 79 years old and has stood before without winning. Indeed last time he stood, 5 years ago, he received only 2.6% of the vote.

Having won, however, he has declined to take the seat, citing chronic ill health as the reason. “Chronic” means “persisting for a long time or constantly recurring”, as opposed to “acute” which indicates a condition that came on suddenly. So it is not unreasonable to assume that, whatever ails Mr Thornton, he was aware of it when he stood for election.

We might reasonably further assume that Mr Thronon did not expect to be elected and that, in fact, he was a paper candidate.

Now, if these assumptions are true, one might think that this should be a matter between him and his local party, and possibly, given that it has caused a bit of a furore, the Tory party nationally.

But, you have to remember that the locals have been left a councillor short and that means that legally, a by-election must be held. So that’s a bit inconvenient.

It will have to be organised; candidates will have to chap doors and leaflets will have to be sent out.  The polling stations will ahve to be manned (schools may have to be given the day off). Then electors will have to go yet again to the polls. (I wonder how many will bother.)

And the local authority will have to find the £50,000 that this will cost.

Mr Thornton has refused to speak to the press except to say that he has a health condition that, quite reasonably, he does not wish to discuss.


When asked to comment on the cost of the by-election, he replied: “Sadly that’s the situation that pertains.”

Now, we wish Mr Thronton well as far as his health is concerned, but his attitude does seem to be: “Nothing to do with me or my party, old chap. Let the magic money tree of North Lanarkshire be shaken”.

Hands up if you think that the Conservative party, or Mr Thornton, or both, should take at least part of the financial responsibility for this unnecessary election.



    1. Not a lawyer, but after looking at the results for Fortissat ward of NLC it seems obvious that this is because the other candidates were eliminated in earlier counting stages. Had Thornton withdrawn from the election, his votes would have been redistributed from the start – it’s impossible to tell which of the three unsuccessful candidates would have gone through instead without doing a full re-count. The 670 first preference votes he got could theoretically have put any of those three ahead of the others.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, of course. Thank you Alan.

        A few questions, if I may. (And you may not know the answers. It just seems to me that you know a deal more than I do! 🙂 )

        How long do they keep the slips?
        Isn’t it all done electronically now?
        Would it be possible to do a redistribution of votes from the electronic records?

        Presumably, if possible, this would be cheaper than a by-election?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. None of the original ballot information is stored electronically. They count out the slips of papers by hand and arrange them by first preference votes. Then they take the smallest pile – the first eliminated candidate’s votes – and redistribute it according to any indicated second preferences.

        They repeat the process for each elimination. It’s done this way because it’s a SINGLE transferrable vote – all second(and subsequent) preferences are irrelevant as long as the first vote is still in play. It’s also the simplest way to find the result, as during the last elimination rounds certain votes may go to already-eliminated candidates and then from them to another one still in the race.

        It doesn’t just affect the votes of those three eliminated candidates; it affects how many transferred votes every other candidate got.

        I’m not sure how long they store the ballot papers for. I know general elections keep them for a year, but councils? In any case, those papers could since have been tampered with, lost or disposed of and a full recount of them would probably cost more than the counting for a by-election, since those rarely go beyond the second count. The whole by-election will cost more, due to the new ballots being printed and distributed, as well as the polling places being set up.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Part of me thinks he should be penalised for every occasion he fails to show up to work. As a tory (him not me…) that does seem rather fitting, but another part of me thinks the idea of penalising sick people for being unable to do things is also inexcusable.

    Simply letting him walk away with “That’s the situation that pertains” is ridiculous.

    I hope the tories of north Lanarkshire realise the contempt in which their party holds them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I take your points, Sandy.

      When I heard of this originally, I thought, maybe the poor man has just been taken ill… a heart attack or something… But it’s not that. It’s a chronic condition.

      I’m betting that he never had any intention of taking up his seat.

      He’s right though… the law says another election has to be held, and the law says the council pays for it.

      So it is the situation that pertains.

      I hope that the voters will remember that when the election comes, and that they will remember when there isn’t enough money for something else, that it is the fault of the Tories.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Since all the recent elections have been fought by the London based parties on a ticket of no second independence referendum,then who gets elected is irrelevant to them and those who voted for that.
    Bring out your dead.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s an unusual case and not one that I think should be used as a justification for changing current procedures and law.
    Often elected officials do feel the need to stand down or resign. It should be open for them to do so, and they should be able to without fear of financial penalty. If they do stand down, it’s generally for good, justifiable or principled reasons. Even if the resignation is the result of something less savory and a recognition that credibility has been lost, the electorate should have their say and be allowed to express their voice through the ballot box.
    We can all too easily be cynical about the competence and/or motivations of those who stand as councilors, but it’s precisely for that reason that we don’t need additional barriers to people putting themselves forward for election. Even “paper candidates” have a place in our electoral system, they can and often do substitute for a “none of the above” vote, a spoiled paper or an apathetic stay at home response.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree and I would also add that many people function in their jobs with chronic conditions. These conditions can and often do get worse and this can happen quickly. I’m not saying that 79 year olds shouldn’t stand or that folk shouldn’t vote for them because of their age but 4 or 5 years is a long time when your 79 and these things should be expected.

      As far as paper candidates go, well as long as we allow and accept this and the various other bits of jiggerry pokerrey that have become the norm in our increasingly corrupt political system then this may just be a consequence of that.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, of course they do. Young and old have chronic conditions and work away no bother.

        I see no reason why a 79 year old can’t stand and function perfectly adequately as a councillor. Mr Skinner does a fine job as an MP, arguably a more demanding job. The wisdom of those who have lived a long time is rather underrated.

        If he had served a few months or weeks and then had a heart attack or developed some other illness, I woulodnt dream of suggesting he be penalised. But this has all the hallmarks of someone who stood because he didn’t think he’d get in in a hundred years.

        I’m not sure why parties do that. Pride… We stood a candidate in every ward? An attempt to take votes from someone else to lessen their chances?

        The man seems to have wasted the voters’ time and cost them money.

        Nothing can be done, I suspect, but voters should remember who it was that wasted their time and money.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Well, I take the point, Jake, that members should be able to stand down for whatever reason, whenever they need to. It goes without saying that ill-health would be a primary reason for standing down. I’d never want to see someone penalised for that.

      Of course we don;t know all the details, because the councillor (or non-councillor) won;t supply them, but it does seem that his case is a little different.

      This guy refused to take his seat. In short one day he was standing for election and the next day he had resigned.

      It would be difficult, to know where to draw the line, and of course, it would be hard to prove that he stood as a paper candidate with no intention of doing the job.

      But I feel that his case is different from a candidate who was elected and then became ill. He has stated that his health situation is chronic, rather than acute.

      We can’t prove anything but it seems that the taxpayers have been landed with a £50,000 bill for a councillor who never intended to be a councillor.

      I wish they would change the law so that, as Morag suggested, the next person down should be asked to take the seat.


      1. Morag’s idea might have a certain appeal in this case, but I wouldn’t want the rules to change to accommodate this one quite singular situation. Consider for example a situation where a councilor romps home and is returned with a substantial vote. In time this popular councilor is unable to continue for some unforeseen and quite justifiable reason. He or she resigns. Shouldn’t the voters be given the opportunity to elect another candidate, say from the same political party and with a shared and similar political agenda rather than have an also-ran from next but way down at the bottom of the rank forced on them by this buggins turn innovation that is being proposed? I certainly wouldn’t like to see my SNP councilor replaced by whatever ever unionist reject it was that came next but bottom of the rankings.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I understand that, and of course, if a councillor had served for a while bu then had some reason to stop, health, family, relocation, I would agree.

          But in this case, all the facts point to the paper candidate theory, and that is a different situation.

          Another possibility would be to extract a written obligation from candidates that they will take up their seats or pay compensation to the taxpayers for wasting their time and money.


  4. The present situation reduces their majority. North Lanarkshire is a Tory/Labour coalition ( and birthplace of James Keir Hardie to the eternal shame of the Labour group). Its a multi member ward so the constituents will be represented anyway. Leave the seat vacant.

    The Tories have a lot of weird and wondrous creatures elected on their ticket. Often elected by weird and wondrous voters. They deserve each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A Tory councillor, racked by ill-health and its pains,
    Declines to take up his seat and maintains
    That it’s the Council must pay
    For a new election day –
    “Sadly that’s the situation that pertains”.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Was there not another Tory “candidate”, in the Shetland isles I think, who had found out he had been put forward, and had no idea, nor intention, that he was ” standing”?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Jake. I note:

        “He said putting forward paper candidates was common on the UK mainland and the practice “reduces the risk of candidates from other parties being elected unopposed”.

        “It also ensures that the “total party vote for the council, or nation, is maximised”.”


  7. To be honest I reckon he sets a good example one
    Which I fervently wish all other Torys would follow.
    On the other hand given the beasting you snp/nats
    Are giving a 79 year old man perhaps he wished to
    avoid the buckets of vitriol the snap/nats would splosh
    Over an elderly man.

    On the third hand attacking an elderly person
    Is not something to be proud about,,,,
    And if my contribution to this debate ! Can be
    Construed as taking part in said onslaught
    Then I unreservedly apologise

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The 79 year old man put his name forward in an election, or let it be used by others Niko. He is not an innocent party. The rather sad photo would have been taken by the press who do their fair share of “beasting”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. LOL. You’re daft, but Taz asked Munguin to be easy going on you, because you’re on in the first flush of youth yourself!

      You’r apology is, therefore, accepted. 🙂


    1. Well, given that he had 2.6% last time, it’s only 10.7% we need to question (the 2.6 being dyed in the wool Tories) . It would be interesting to know where it came from.


  8. A similar situation is going on in Moray. The guy claimed to be independent, 4 days after being elected, decided it wasn’t for him. The vote takes place on Wednesday. I thought this was a one-off. How many more have there been?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sethsma,

      That’s even odder. If he stood as an independent, you imagine that he actually chose to do it, as opposed to being talked into it by the local party to “up the national vote”.

      Maybe he genuinely felt that it was too overwhelming.

      It’s also weird to have an election on a Wednesday. Aren’t they always held (for no good reason) on a Thursday?


  9. We had a similar situation in Moray, elected person decided not to take their seat after four days.
    The by-election takes place on Thursday. The cost to the Council estimated at £25,000, add to that shoe leather and parties costs.
    I don’t know the answer, maybe a guarantee bond.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m assuming that this is the same person as Sethsma was referring to, Aucheorn.

      I guess the other parties have to find people to put up, even if they have already been elected in the ward. Not so easy at relatively short notice. And £25,000 is a lot of money. It’s a years salary for someone.


      1. She is Seth’s Ma I’m Seth’s Da, that’s Seth in the in the pic.
        Thinking out loud here.
        The bond would stop after 3 months or ill-health, no funds would be called upon or have to be lodged, unless there was an early resignation. Would maybe cut down on “Paper Candidates”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That seems like a sensible idea.

          I’d add in drastic change in family circumstances (eg partner offered new job in
          Papua New Guinea?)

          That’s for the heads up on your family LOL. Seth is one beauty!

          Liked by 1 person

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