The General Election finally finishes today in Thirsk and Malton, with the initial poll cancelled after the death of the UKIP candidate.
This has no doubt been frustrating for Anne McIntosh and her rival candidates, as a similar circumstance was for Sir Patrick Cormack in Staffordshire South in 2005. That was the first occurence since 1951, though this will be the eighth General Election since 1918 to have included a delayed poll due to the death of a candidate.
The House of Commons library paper explains the law.
But the current provisions are unnecessary. What is perhaps less appreciated is that they are also dangerous.
For example, imagine somebody with a very strong sense of grievance over a major political controversy was suicidal and had decided they wanted to take their own life. Were they validly nominated in the constituency of the Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition before committing suicide as the campaign began, they could then remove a current or potential future PM from the House of Commons for the time that the new Parliament is prorogued.
For similar reasons, and perhaps a less fantastical scenario, the current system creates a completely unnecessary security risk against even the most obscure minor fringe candidates in the most high-profile seats. There were ten candidates in Witney at this election and fifteen in Sedgefield in 2005. There is an unnecessary risk in offering either organised terrorist groups or malicious individuals the chance to embarrass the British government and seize a significant publicity coup.
The law should be replaced before the next General Election, while there is plenty of time to remove these possibilities.
Of course, a similar outcome could result without any malicious motivation. It was very fortunate that Nigel Farage escaped injured from his plane crash on the morning of the election. Had that, as at at first feared, been a more tragic incident then the "Speaker seeking re-election" would then have still be seeking re-election to the House, probably in a few weeks time.
There are any number of alternatives which could replace the current legislation, avoiding these dangers.
The election could simply proceed, with provision made for it to be followed by a re-run if a deceased candidate were elected posthumously.
An alternative would be to make include provision for the Returning Officer to allow the party concerned to replace a candidate - solely in the event of a candidate's death, rather than allowing candidate substitutions to become a general rule - subject to their getting the relevant signatures to nominate the replacement. (Notices could be placed at all ballot stations if it was too late to print ballot papers; the loose ends in this scenario, such as for postal ballots, are rather better than the current system).
An alternative would be for the Returning Officer could be given discretion to determine whether the election could proceed, for example, based on whether the deceased candidate had any significant chance of victory. That could, for example, be a rule of thumb that the election would be postponed only if the deceased candidate's party were within 10-15% last time. If an outsider won a posthumous victory, again a by-election or re-run could be held.
Of course, if there was a very inconvenient outcome, the British tradition would be to find a way to fudge it. It is not much known that Sir Alec Douglas-Home was Prime Minister while neither a member of the Lords or the Commons, in a strange constitutional limbo, for a fortnight on renouncing his peerage on becoming PM in the Autumn of 1963.
So perhaps the Monarch could still invite a party leader who was not a member of the Commons to form a government, while they awaited their delayed General Election contest. But I can't see how they could speak in the Commons on the Queen's Speech.
More surprisingly (in something that would surely not be repeated today), Harold Wilson proceeded to make Patrick Gordon Walker his Foreign Secretary even after he lost his seat in Smethwick in October 1964 to the infamously racist Conservative campaign. Gordon Walker resigned after three months in the role only after also losing a hastily arranged Leyton by-election the following January.