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 http://www.independentnetwork.org.uk