Thursday, 20 August 2009

Independent but still open to scrutiny

According to Conservative website Centre Right “Independents should be scrutinised like anyone else”. This statement followed independent MP Martin Bell’s announcement on Monday, of his plans to target discredited MPs.

But the idea of holding independent candidates to account has never been under question. In fact the Independent Network (IN) would encourage it, with all its members subject to the Nolan Committee’s standards in public life. True - IN does not impose any political views on its affiliates, but they must be non-discriminatory and act according to the principles and values the public expect.

Just because a candidate is independent does not mean they are not open to scrutiny. They are however free to represent their constituents without towing a party line. And it is the Independent Network’s aim to promote them as an alternative to the established parties.

But the Guardian’s Michael White said he believes “major parties remain the key”. In his opinion they attract good candidates with the experience to do the job. But many of these candidates are attracted to these political parties because they provide an easier route to power. If independent candidates were offered the same level of support, there is no reason why they could not gain the same level of experience.

It is also true to say, very few people can honestly agree with every policy of a political party. This means they could be forced to compromise some of their views to avoid rocking the boat, while independent candidates can express their ideas free from party whips.

They may not have the experience when they first launch their campaign but that is where IN comes in. It is hoped that by creating a national identity for independents, encouraging the electorate to identify themselves as independent and by raising their profile, they will attract funding, which can in turn be used to support candidates.

Prospective Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have a well established support network and it is this inequality faced by independent candidates which IN seeks to address.

For information on a meeting being held for independent candidates go to

Monday, 17 August 2009

Independents need teamwork

This week independent MP Martin Bell and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite began a campaign to organise a network of “anti-sleaze” independent candidates to target discredited MPs.

But they are not alone. The Independent Network (IN) is a not-for-profit association aiming to offer support and advice to those independent candidates previously left out in the cold. It aims to promote independents as a credible alternative to established political parties and to raise funds to achieve this. Jury Team is another coalition which sees independents as a way of reviving the public’s faith in politics.

But one of the biggest problems facing independents today is the lack of a single identity, familiar to the big three parties. The Independent Network is unique in its aim to create a national identity for independents standing for election. It wants floating voters with either similar or conflicting views to see themselves as independents, giving them a sense of cohesion.
But they are more likely to gain a strong identity and the recognition they deserve if these groups worked together to support and promote independent candidates. If they combined their efforts their message has a bigger chance to stand out and be heard by the growing number of voters disenfranchised with party politics.

The Independent Network is holding a meeting for all independent candidates on Friday September 25, to create a forum to exchange advice and resources. At the meeting a new executive committee will be formed and members will also discuss how candidates can access and share resources to aid their campaign. For more information go to