Monday, 16 November 2009

The Bell Principles

The Bell Principles, new guidelines for candidates and elected representatives, have been adopted by the Independent Network (IN). All candidates endorsed and supported by the Independent Network – whether for parliamentary, council or union elections – will be required to abide by the Principles.

Martin Bell, the former Independent MP and supporter of the Independent Network tabled an initial draft of his principles as guidelines for Independent candidates at the IN’s strategy meeting on 25th September 2009. Supporters were so impressed by the guidelines they unanimously agreed to adopt his principles with the understanding that they would be edited into a subsequent draft, approved by the IN’s executive committee, and would be a ‘living document’ thus under continuous review to offer the best possible guidance to political candidates and representatives.

The Executive met in October and adjusted and finalised The Principles. They are thought to be the first set of conduct guidelines published by a political organisation for its affiliated candidates and representatives. An important character of The Principles is that they are not a set of rules about what representatives should not do, but urge positive action to improve and promote democracy and service to their community.

MPs are currently obliged to follow the Seven Principles of Public Life produced by Lord Nolan in 1995, which include ‘openness’ and ‘honesty’. The Bell Principles go beyond Nolan’s principles and set the standard for today’s elected representatives. The influence of Sir Christopher Kelly's reform recommendations on The Principles is yet to be seen, but undoubtedly will inform subsequent drafts.

Naturally one of the most fundamental points of The Bell Principles is point 3, “Be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip”. A politician’s role is to represent their constituents and not to be a party puppet or faction fop. Independent candidates enrich the democratic system and are needed to erode the undue influence of political parties.

The Independent Network welcomes all comments and suggestions on the first published iteration of The Bell Principles published below.


We will

• abide wholeheartedly by the spirit and letter of the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership

• be guided by considered evidence, our real world experience and expertise, our constituencies and our consciences

• be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip

• be non-discriminatory, ethical and committed to pluralism.

• make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based

• listen, consulting our communities constantly and innovatively

• treat political opponents with courtesy and respect, challenging them when we believe they are wrong, and agreeing with them when we believe they are right

• resist abuses of power and patronage and promote democracy at every level

• work with other elected independents as a Group with a chosen spokesperson

• claim expenses, salaries and compensation openly so the public can judge the value for money of our activities.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Bells stand.

    I have worked hard over the last two years as a single Independent on Northampton Borough Council and as one of two on Northamptonshire County Council to try to draw up similar principled guidelines for others who may join as Independents.

    Following a recent defection from the Liberal Democrats on the Borough Council we drew up the following statement (follow link below)which in essence matches the Bell Principles. I would welcome your views

  2. I agree to these Principles but I would add that I (as evidenced by my friends if they were asked) that I wholeheartily live by these Principles without reservation, not because I'm 'jumping on this bandwagen' but because I honestly believe and action everyday that this is the only way to live - without fear and without reservation!!!
    Despite the realworld experience I have suffered (homelessness, unemployment and now physical disability and even abuse and corruption by the Police), despite these hardships, I am still generous to a fault and try my very best everyday to live by these Principles!
    I firmly believe that we all should give a good example and by providing such a good example, we enrich peoples own lives or at least the lives we meet and interact with everyday!
    Yet despite the obstacles, I have found it increasingly difficult to get support and fairness from our politicians and my own MP does not, in my experience give me hope that he will represent me when it comes to welfare reform or even in enabling someone like me on disability benefits is even trusted to build a better future for ourselves or for everyone!
    The evidence I have is that Parliament cant be trusted with that better future, as the Expenses scandal and economic collapse (engineered by the badguys) proves that even my good example is not good enough, no matter what we the people try to do!

    Therefore I MUST stand for election to Parliament so that I can fix these things myself, as n0o one elese has the skills or motivation to fix things for me. So I think: 'if I'm in financial hardship and no one helps me, who's helping those who are worse of than me??'

    Despite the fact that I cant afford the Deposit, even though I borrowed £2300 and built myself a better computer and printed off six thousand leaflets, I'm now skint and at risk of losing this election before a single vote is counted, I still carry-on, because the alternative is we re-elect the incumbant or elect a new MP who doesnt care about me or the people like me!

    so, what else do I do, if the candidates on offer to me ignore my concerns, what happens if your concerns are also ignored?? What am I suppose to do if my government and my PArliament ignore all our concerns liek they have for the last thirty or forty years??

    so if you support me, let me know and let others know that at least in Bournemouth East (and lincoln and blackburn and a few other places) there is an alternative and independent candidate who needs that support! If you live in these constituencies where there is an independent candidate standing up for you: let them know and tell everyone to vote4us!!!

    best of luck to all Independents (and all candidates) in this 2010 UK General Election!!!

    Steven J Humphrey
    Independent and free!

  3. Marianne Overton16 April 2010 at 00:17

    Well done. The Lincolnshire Independents have also signed up to the Bell Principles. We have got quite a substantial network across Lincolnshire with four out of seven MP seats contested this time. All stand at their own expense, determined to provide an opportunity of a genuine local representative.

  4. What a breath of fresh air. We have a former politician coming out of retirement to espouse the Bell's principles here in Australia .He is trying to encourage independents to take up the flag and give australians the government that they are entitled to. Good luck John Hatton,you have my support.
    Keith Horne. 1 September 2010