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Why It’s Illegal to Resign from the British House of Commons


This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your beautiful website for 10% off at
http://squarespace.com/hai. The UK, of course, is a country made up of
four distinct countries—the one everyone forgets about, Pret territory, Buckfast territory,
and that one that no matter what you say will stir up drama in the YouTube comments. Now, this wonderful country of countries has
a pretty weird political system. For example, the Queen for some reason owns
all the dolphins in Britain and is also able to fire the entirety of the Australian government
and also doesn’t need a drivers license or passport since they’re both issued in
her name but the weirdest of the weird is in this place—the Palace of Westminster. This building is, of course, known for being
blown up in V for Vendetta, crushed in Independence Day: Resurgence, and blown up again in G.I. Joe: Retaliation but interestingly, it’s
also believed to be where the Parliament of the United Kingdom meets. Now, the British Parliament has some unique
rules. For example, MP’s are not actually allowed
to speak directly to one another—only to the speaker of the house. They’re also not allowed to use each other’s
names. They therefore only refer to each other in
the third person when talking to the speaker saying something like, “Mr Speaker, the
Honourable Member for Tewkesbury smells like beef and cheese.” There’s also one law saying it’s illegal
to wear a suit of armor into Parliament. That law was made in 1313 and remains super
inconvenient since MP’s have to change in and out of their armor before and after going
into Parliament. Lastly, MP’s aren’t allowed to clap in
Parliament which is part of the reason they do all their hooting and hollering during
debate. Now, this parliament, of course, is made up
of two bodies—the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is made up of, at least
currently, 792 unelected members who are appointed by the Queen mostly off of the advice of the
Prime Minister. Despite being the upper house with the flashier
looking room the House of Lords is nowadays less powerful than the House of Commons since
aristocracy fell out of fashion. The House of Commons is the more democratic
house with elected officials and they’re the ones really running the show. The members of the House of Commons usually
serve a term of five years between elections but the big oddity of the House of Commons
is that the MP’s are not allowed to resign—it is illegal to resign from the British House
of Commons. Now it’s worth pointing out, despite being
illegal there’s no punishment for resigning because you just can’t do it. This anti-resignation rule was put in place
back in 1624. What you have to consider about being an MP
in 1624 is that the job wasn’t quite as cushy. In fact, it wasn’t even really a job. It was sort of like a part-time gig where
MP’s would just travel down to London for a short periods to vote. Of course it wasn’t like today where you
could just pop down to London on the train—it would take days to travel to and from London
and for all this work you were paid nothing. There was no salary. Therefore being an MP was viewed as a chore
rather than some great honor and so, once an MP was appointed, Parliament wanted to
make sure they stuck around. Things have, however, changed since 1624. MP’s are now paid around $100,000 per year
and the position is treated as a full-time, somewhat respected job. The other big thing was that, at some point,
the idea of involuntary unpaid labor became pretty unpopular. So, instead of doing something reasonable
like changing the rules Parliament started using this crazy procedure to free MP’s
that wanted to quit. So, how it works is that the departing MP
sends in an application to the official known as the Chancellor of the Exchequer for one
of two jobs—Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough,
and Burnham or the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. This is all because in the rules of Parliament
it is prohibited to hold either of these jobs and the position of MP at the same time. These jobs are both essentially overseers
of ancient administrative divisions that no longer exist meaning that there are no obligations
anymore but the jobs still exist. The second an MP is appointed to either of
these positions they are no longer MP’s and they stay Crown Steward and Bailiff of
these areas until they either apply to be removed from the position or until another
MP is appointed to the position when they ask to resign. Now, one important thing to point out is that
the Chancellor of the Exchequer can choose not to appoint an MP to one of these positions
which means that, in theory, someone could be stuck as an MP against their will. They could, of course, just not show up to
their job and they’d still get paid which doesn’t sound bad. It just probably wouldn’t be great for their
political careers. If your UK political career just ended you
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