Monday, 19 October 2009

Bottom of the ballot

The UK’s electoral system is not kind to independent candidates. Electoral Commission rules state that only registered political parties are allowed to use logos on the ballot paper. Since visual cues and representations are a key element in establishing a successful brand, this poses a problem to independent candidates.

What’s more, while candidates are listed in alphabetical order on the ballot – regardless of which party they’re from – independents are always listed at the very bottom.

This matters. Independents must – and do – work enormously hard to build their profile in their community, devoting significant amounts of their time and money along the way. They often do this entirely alone, or with the smallest of staffs and budgets. Compare this with the other candidates who can draw upon the bottomless pockets and numberless agitators and volunteers of the established parties.

Why then, having worked so hard, should independents be hamstrung at the polling station by being hidden away at the bottom of the ballot?

What independents must do to counter this double disability, is work together to forge a common identity for independent candidates. This common identity is not based around a party, or common policies – it is about showing a commitment to public service, probity and rigorous principles. It’s also about showing that independents, rather than careerist party politicians, can best represent and – crucially – listen to their constituents.

That’s where the Independent Network (IN) can help. By affiliating themselves to the Independent Network and signing up to the Bell Principles, candidates benefit from the shared expertise and experience of others; they can also use the Independent Network brand on their website and campaign materials. This will help individual candidates, as it shows they’ve signed up to the most rigorous code of conduct in British politics. It will also help independents across the country by forming a common identity for non-aligned candidates and politicians, and help promote the credibility of independents as a realistic alternative to traditional party politics.

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