Voters in Portsmouth once elected an MP who had been dead for 87 days - he served four days in office

​CHOOSING an MP candidate in a general election is done in secret - letting voters dodge blame if their picked politician later turns out to be a dud.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 11:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 2:38 pm

But in​ the​ 18th century voters did not pick a bad candidate, they picked someone who had​ been dead for 87 days.

Edward Legge, the fifth son of the Earl of Dartmouth, served as a captain in the navy.

His brother Henry wrote in 1747 to the Duke of Bedford - the First Lord of the Admiralty - proposing he joined parliament 'on the Admiralty interest in Portsmouth'.

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Full list of General Election 2019 candidates standing in the Portsmouth area

King George II was the reigning monarch when the election took place.

It was held between June and August in 1747 as the poll was not held at the same time in all constituencies.

Capt Legge was returned as an MP for Portsmouth constituency on December 15.

Hon. Edward Legge (1770-1747) Picture: William Hoare

But it was only on December 19 that news of his death - which happened on September 19 – arrived from the West Indies where he was commanding a squadron.

The History of Parliament website reports that when writing to the Duke of Bedford, Capt Legge's brother said: ‘The least return the Legges can make for the many instances of partiality they have received from your Grace, is to do all in their power to make the effects of that favour as little troublesome to their benefactor as possible; and for my own part I can see no objection to the declaring Ned a candidate for Portsmouth since your Grace is so kind as to see none to accepting of him in that light yourself.​’

File photo of a ballot box being opened in Hampshire. Picture: Vernon Nash (180503-049)

John Sadden's book The Portsmouth Book of Days added: ‘A dead man was elected as member for Portsmouth. It was not known that Edward (Legge) was dead at the time of his election but, when it was realised, another election was organised and a vice-admiral with a pulse, Sir Edward Hawke, was chosen.'

Details of the strange saga emerge from W Gates' 1900 book History of Portsmouth and The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1715-1754.

Today party leaders Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson have written in The News of their ambitions if they were prime minister after Thursday's election.

Candidates in Portsmouth South are: Donna Jones (Conservative), Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dem), John Kennedy (Brexit), Stephen Morgan (Labour) and Steven George (Justice and Anti-Corruption Party).

Portsmouth North’s candidates are: Amanda Martin (Labour), Antonia Harrison (Lib Dem), George Madgwick (Independent), Lloyd Day (Green), and Penny Mordaunt (Conservative).