Thursday, 28 January 2010

Drowning in your manifesto?

Independent candidates can sometimes find it difficult to produce a comprehensive manifesto on national and international issues. To help you get started we have put together the following suggestions.

Use the Network

The IN, as the name suggests, is a network for independents that aims to pool resources to enable candidates to succeed. Candidates can use the network to communicate and use the expertise of other independents and supporters. For instance, if you are struggling on education and healthcare, you can contact candidates who are doctors or teachers to improve your understanding of these areas.


Whilst New Labour proclaimed, ‘education, education, education’, a statement for independents could be ‘research, research, research’. It’s important that you’re up to date on current political debates and have a good knowledge base on national policy. Think tanks provide excellent research on a wide range of subjects from economics to immigration. They are arguably influential in politics, as many party policies originate from research carried out by them. Examples of popular think tanks include ippr, Demos, Fabian Society and Hansard Society.


It’s useful to check out the demographics of your constituency. This can help you to target your voters, for instance you may want to attract a certain group, such as students. Good websites for demographics include UK Polling Report and National Statistics Online.


One of the strengths of being an independent candidate is that you don’t have to sign up to a rigid manifesto - you can freely listen and consult your constituents. Essentially you want to redirect their needs and requests in an effective and clear way in your manifesto. To be successful you will need to get in touch with people of all ages and backgrounds, this will enable you to have a balanced view. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to have a proper conversation with every electorate, so online methods are great. A good website is Survey Monkey which enables users to create online surveys for free.

Social Media

A good way to get in touch with younger people is by using popular social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. It is a great way to connect with a wide range of people that you may not meet in traditional public political events. Barack Obama used Facebook and Twitter in the 2008 US presidential election to his advantage in order to connect with his audience. Social Oomph is a great website that enables users to manage social media and is an essential tool for candidates.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

If you have policies that are similar or the same as political parties, avoid the pitfalls of completely changing your manifestos just to be different; there’s no point reinventing the wheel. But it can be an advantage to research opposing candidates’ manifestos if asked to draw upon why your policies are better than theirs; it is always good to know what you are up against.


Finally, if you’re supporter of a charity or pressure group, you may want to include some of their policies in your manifesto. For instance Save the Children is asking Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) to consent (if elected) to take direct action to end child poverty. If you’re not currently involved with a charity, but passionate about a certain issue, you may want to contact an organisation that supports your views. For instance if you’re passionate about electoral reform, you may want to get in touch with Power 2010 and sign up to their pledge for PPCs.

If you think we’ve missed any key points please leave your comments below or send an email to:

Friday, 15 January 2010

Nobody Likes a Moaner

David Cameron spoke about positive campaigning back in December and we couldn’t agree more. Positive campaigning is the ideal route for candidates to talk about what they can do for you rather than getting bogged down in a political slandering match.

Some candidates in previous elections have spent far too much time on negative campaigning. The ‘we are better than them’ approach just isn’t productive. A country gripped by recession and two wars deserves better. We need to know why we should vote for a candidate, rather than simply what’s wrong with everyone else.

There are many benefits to positive campaigning. Candidates can clearly outline what they hope to achieve and why they’re the best candidate. It’s important that candidates sell themselves and shout out their achievements. If you went to an interview and defamed the other applicants, would you expect to find yourself hired?

The next General Election provides a unique opportunity for Independents to set themselves aside from the traditional party election campaigns and offer their constituents something new and fresh – a credible alternative. Dr Richard Taylor is the perfect example of this approach. He defeated a Government Minister in 2001 in Wyre Forest on a string of issues including the rejection of proposals to downgrade the local Kidderminster Hospital being the primary one. If you wish to be elected you must have a well thought out manifesto that can include local issues, but must also include national issues – you’re standing for the UK Parliament, not the local Council.

There are also legal ramifications for slander. If you doggedly pursue a negative campaigning approach, it would be wise to note that many have got themselves into serious legal trouble regarding defamation of character among other types of slander. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy wrote a good piece for The Guardian’s Comment is Free regarding slander of those in the public eye. Although this piece is aimed journalists, it is important to know that any accusations made must be fully researched with empirical evidence.

Whilst the Conservatives and Labour parade the notion of positive campaigning they are not adverse to the occasional spat and reputation bashing. The public are tired of the adversarial politics that is neither productive nor proactive. Independent candidates on the other hand offer something different.

It is time for a change, and I doubt Cameron and the Conservatives can keep to their new found principle. In the words of the opposition leader “let's make it a good clean fight.”

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The General Election should morally coincide with the Local Elections

The case for the General Election to be held on May 6th to coincide with the Local Elections is a strong one. This country, deep in recession, cannot afford two separate elections. It would be an absolute waste of tax payers’ money and an unnecessary expense for the economy. If the elections were on two separate dates it will be obvious electioneering by the Government, by attempting to influence the votes by the timing of the General Election.

The last General Election cost £80m to organise, although there are thousands of extra costs which could increase that figure. As of March 2009 the deficit stands at 55% of our whole Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Government will put extra strain on our fragile economy by having two separate election dates. EU Regulations enforced by the Maastricht Treaty consider a country to be in debt when they reach a deficit at 60% of their GDP, at which point the EU council could decide to enforce sanctions on the UK.

The situation is dire, and needs to be addressed now. We cannot risk sanctions and we cannot jeopardise the future of this country. The primary concern for any Government should be the reduction of the deficit not election success. Therefore having the General and Local elections on the same day would be the perfect measure of cutting costs on an essentially expensive operation.

It is a well known fact in previous elections that Governments have all abused their ability to manipulate the public and the timing of the General Election to suit their needs. It is common practice for all political parties to coerce the electorate; we shouldn’t have to stand for this, and we should be free of conscience to make our own vote, we should be independent.

The Labour Government seems to only be concerned with election success rather than reducing the deficit. Ian Dunt of in his commentary hit the nail on the head of Gordon Brown, “Now, he puts off the date as long as possible, in a vain search for political fortune”. The Prime Minister should be running the country instead of searching for a miracle to keep his political tenure. It seems that the Government is far more concerned with election success than running the country.

This farce surrounding the dates of the 2010 election can be easily resolved. Have them on the same day, it saves money and makes things simpler for everyone; after all we are paying for it.