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Recent examples of non-MP leaders for well-known UK parties are Natalie Bennett and Nigel Farage.

This seems to generally only be the case if the party had very few or no elected MPs when choosing a leader. But would it be reasonable for, say, Labour or the Liberal Democrats to elect someone who is not an MP but because they have good leadership qualities?

When a party decides who should be an MP, what are the disadvantages of electing someone who does not hold a seat in government? What would happen if they were elected prime minister?

Finally, is it mandatory that, if a leader or PM loses their seat in an election they should stand down from their leadership position, or this only customary?

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Arguably it might be better to have a leader outside Parliament, as they can concentrate on leading the party in a wider sense, without being constantly distracted by the day-to-day compromises of Parliamentary life, or by the heavy workload of a constituency MP, or by having to physically travel between their constituency and Westminster. Such a leader could work on keeping the party membership happy and on connecting to the general public.

Against that a non-MP leader could easily lose touch with the concerns of the party's MPs and vice versa. More broadly it is likely that a non-MP leader would be unacceptable to voters' democratic sentiment, unless, as in the case for very small parties, it is obvious that the party has little choice.

Several Prime Ministers were members of the Lords rather than the Commons, although not in modern times. See this link to a UK government website for examples.

It is not mandatory for a party leader who loses his seat to stand down. At time of writing (May 13th 2015) Jim Murphy does not plan to stand down as Scottish Labour leader despite losing his seat. Nigel Farage failed to gain the seat he stood for, but seems set to continue as UKIP leader.

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