Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

Use of party names and party descriptions

Political parties can register up to 12 descriptions1 and the Welsh translations of those descriptions.

You must check that the party name or description as given on the nomination form is registered on Commission’s register of political parties and matches it exactly. The party must also be listed as being allowed to field candidates in that part of the UK that the candidate is standing in. If it does not, you must reject that nomination.2  

Even if a registered party is well known, it is vital to check the register of political parties for the exact details of the party as registered with the Commission.

In Wales, a candidate may use either the English version, Welsh version or both versions of either the party name or a description as long as they are on the register. Translations of party names are listed on the website under other name and translations of descriptions are listed to the right of the description under translation(s). At a UK Parliamentary election, if the party has not registered a translation, a translation of any party name or description cannot be used.

In case of any future challenges and to maintain a clear audit trail you should print a copy of the relevant part of the register of political parties showing the descriptions and party name at the time of your determination.

What descriptions may be used?

A candidate may only use one of the following descriptions:3  

  • the word ‘Independent’ or, in Wales, ‘Independent’ and/or ‘Annibynnol’ 
  • the registered party name of a registered political party 
  • one of the descriptions the party has registered with the Commission

Certificate of authorisation

If a candidate wishes to use a party name or description, this must be authorised by the party’s Nominating Officer (or a person authorised to act on their behalf).4  

The candidate must submit a certificate of authorisation, signed by or on behalf of the party’s Nominating Officer, by the deadline for the delivery of nomination papers.

You can check who the Nominating Officer for a particular party is by referring to our register of political parties. However, as long as the person who has signed the certificate claims that they have been authorised to do so by the registered Nominating Officer, the certificate should be taken at face value.

Some candidates provide a document showing the delegation of powers to authorise the use of a party name or description to someone else (sometimes known as the ‘Local Nominating Officer certificate’ or ‘Deputy Nominating Officer certificate’).

There is no need for this document to be submitted as it is not part of the nomination paper and is therefore not required. Therefore, if it is supplied, it can be a copy.

A Nominating Officer may stand as a candidate. If this happens, the candidate, as Nominating Officer, may authorise their own description. A person authorised by the Nominating Officer to sign a certificate of authorisation may also be a candidate and sign a certificate for their own nomination.

Description for the Speaker of the House of Commons

The current Speaker of the House of Commons may use the description ‘The Speaker seeking re-election’ (and/or the equivalent in Welsh). The use of this description in these circumstances does not need to be supported by a certificate of authorisation or any documentary evidence. Any such candidate cannot request a party emblem, and so no emblem of any kind can be printed on the ballot paper beside their name. While the current Speaker of the House of Commons may use the description ‘The Speaker seeking re-election’, there is no requirement for them to do so, in which case the preceding paragraphs on candidate’s description and the certificate of authorisation would apply to them as to any other candidate.

The use of joint descriptions

Candidates standing on behalf of more than one political party may use a joint description which is registered with the Commission.5 Such candidates must submit a certificate of authorisation issued by each of the parties’ Nominating Officers (or persons authorised to act on their behalf) by the deadline for the delivery of nomination papers.6  

You can find joint descriptions listed on the register of political parties. To view them, go to the registration page for the relevant parties and within the descriptions section, any joint description will be followed by the words (Joint Description with the xx party). 

For example The Square and Circle Party Candidate (Joint Description with the Circle Party) would be how the joint description would be listed on the Square Party page. The words in brackets are for explanatory purposes only and do not form part of the description and therefore should not be included on the statement of persons nominated or ballot papers.

Last updated: 19 December 2023