Friday, 26 March 2010

Independents a Safer Bet in a Hung Parliament

Bookmaker William Hill is giving odds of 5/4 for there to be the first hung parliament in over three decades. As David Cameron’s lead continues to shrink, statistics show that it is possible that neither of the main two parties will secure a majority in the upcoming General Election.

Recent polls from Ipsos MORI put the Conservative lead at a meagre five points with just 37% of the national vote. Political analysts assert that the Tories will now need to pull off the biggest percentage swing since the Second World War to be confident of avoiding a hung parliament.

These extraordinary circumstances are the result of the national mood being swayed more by Labour’s unpopularity than any tangible surge of enthusiasm for the Conservatives, and this apparent lack of enthusiasm could well mean that more of the electorate will hang their hopes on independent candidates.

Many independents, particularly those endorsed by the Independent Network (IN), are campaigning ethically, listening to the interests of their communities, and are free from control of any political party. If there is a hung parliament, voting independently could well prove to have been the smart move for voters.

There has been much speculation on how the Liberal democrats would act in a hung parliament, with Nick Clegg being dubbed the ‘Kingmaker’. What hasn’t been given much attention is the potential influence independent MPs could command.

In an article for The New Statesman, Roy Hattersley asserts that “forming a viable government could well require negotiations with Esther Rantzen, Martin Bell and Terry Waite as well as Nick Clegg.” This would place an extraordinary responsibility in the hands of independent MPs whose loyalties lie, first and foremost, with their constituency. There are currently two directly elected independents in the House of Commons and, with 20 high quality candidates endorsed by the IN to date with more to come, there could well be more independent MPs in Parliament after the next election.

Jonathan Salt, endorsed IN PPC for Huntingdon, has put some thought to such an eventuality. He says: “If we ended up with a hung parliament after an election and I have won Huntingdon, I would not ally myself with any party. I would vote for the Government if I felt that my vote were right for my constituents.”

Compare this response to that of Nick Clegg, who, according to the New Statesman, “announced recently that he would give his support to whichever party ‘wins’.” It’s easy to see how voters could become disillusioned with party politics and that some would rather bet on a candidate that will serve their interests first. Clegg is using arithmetic, whereas IN endorsed independent candidates adhering to the Bell Principles are using considered evidence, experience, conscience, and the needs of their constituents to guide their choices.

Being involved in a hung parliament is a huge responsibility, the actions of any one MP have the potential greatly influence the way our country is run. Although some party politicians may profess independence, their voting is too often dictated by their party line. In a hung parliament, the party whips will need to be even more fervent, so party politicians will have little choice but to do as their leader says.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Sick of the Drama

As the Observers revelations broke about Prime Minister Brown's worst kept secret of his violent streak broke and the unleashing of the "forces of hell" upon Chancellor Darling; we ask the question, why are we governed by a bunch of bullies? When are our elected representatives going to be in the papers for doing some positive?

Brown's temper really isn't the problem and it's really unlikely that he would've unleashed the, so called, forces of hell on our dear Darling. He has denied absolutely any accusation of his bullying. The real crisis is the continuous scandals surrounding Parliament and the complete disillusionment of the public with politics.

The Tories and the LibDems can laugh at this current mishap which has engulfed number 10 and reap the benefits of our beleaguered political system. They have even been as brazen to ask for an inquiry into the working practices at number 10. The original story which promoted the current bullying allegation emerged in September 2008 in the Times. This was typical Westminster stuff, say the wrong thing and suffer the consequences. The problem is that nobody seems to criticising these practices? Darling got it right back in 2008 and predicted the worst recession since 1929, yet he was to suffer because he didn't toe the Party line.

In the last year we have had scandal after scandal from our elected representatives. From the email scandal surrounding Damian McBride last year to the revelations that one of the Tory’s wealthiest donors doesn’t pay UK tax. There is something seriously wrong with our current political system and we deserve better public representatives.

Last September, the former independent MP Martin Bell presented the Bell Principles to supporters of the IN and they were unanimously adopted. The Bell Principles are a code of conduct for elected representatives that include key values for politicians such as transparency and treating opponents with respect. We would have a very different Parliament if all MPs signed up to these principles.

Some people criticise independents for not having any real policies, but many of the independents we’ve been talking to have been debating current issues and have come up with some unique and innovative ideas. Independent politicians are arguably ahead of their party candidates, they don’t have to simply toe the party line and therefore need to debate issues and consult the public.

The next general election provides a unique opportunity for independents to get elected. Independent MPs will still attract controversy, but maybe they could move politics back into debating policy, rather than nonstop scandals.