Thursday, 17 September 2009

Freedom to listen

One thing that sets independent candidates apart from other politicians is their ability to listen. Independents are free to take their own lead and listen objectively to debate without the pressure of party whips. But not all groups without a whip system can be said to be independent. Groups of politicians campaigning on a unified issue could be influenced by the ideology of the group, raising concerns over the individual candidate’s ability to represent the views and concerns of their constituents. Members could easily succumb to pressure from their peers within the group- even without a whip system in place there could be an implied whip, making the group’s ideology a priority.

That does not mean groups of independents are unable to come together and agree on issues. Equally independents should be free to have their own opinions and ideas while finding a common ground with others. But they should be careful not to blindly follow the ideas of any group without considering their conscience and the relevance to the people they represent.

The Independent Network is a loose association which is not only against the whip system but sees flaws in the whole party political system and its abuse as a route to power. It wants Parliament to return to a place of constructive debate, rather than continuing as a stage for politicians to act out a party political drama.

Statistics show the public is hungry for an alternative to the three established parties, but creating more organisations whose members must also conform to a fixed policy is not the answer. The Independent Network aims to promote independent candidates as a credible alternative to voters, free from the ideals of a group and unique in their ability to listen to the needs of their constituents. This will in turn allow the public to vote for individuals and the policies they individually believe in, rather than what a leader or faction imposes.

The Independent Network is holding a meeting on September 25th to discuss how to support candidates in the upcoming general election. To find out more click here.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A bigger chance for independents

The Guardian’s most recent ICM poll showed just 85% of votes cast at the end of last month were for the three main political parties. According to the newspaper, that figure has dropped considerably since 1996 when Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats accounted for 97% of votes. Even five years ago - it said - the three parties still gathered 91%.

So what’s happened? The drop could be explained by the growth in votes for marginal political parties but it is questionable whether voters are choosing them because they agree with their policies. Instead it is likely they are just looking for an alternative to the three main established parties. In the last 20 years party membership has fallen by 50% while a record number of votes were cast for independent candidates in the 2005 general election.

Independent political candidates represent an alternative to party politics, offering the public the chance to use their vote positively. With high profile names such as Terry Waite and Esther Rantzen announcing their plans to stand as independents, people now have the opportunity to vote for people they believe in rather than compromising their politics. They can choose an individual instead of a party. Unlike party politicians independents are in the unique position to be able to listen to debate and make an informed decision based on the feelings of their constituents and without the pressure of a party whip.

The Independent Network (IN) is a not-for-profit association which aims to support independent political candidates free from toeing the party line. It wants to give a collective voice to independent candidates, although it does not impose any political views on its members. It is hoped the public will then become more aware of the choices available to them, so they know they have more than three options when they come to vote at the next general election.

All independent candidates are invited to a strategy meeting later this month to discuss the ways Independent Network can support them. For more information go to