Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Will independents replace Lib Dems as the only alternative?

In at least 14 local authorities Independents are fielding more candidates than the Liberal Democrats.

Independents do not enjoy the support or coordination of a national party, however in 14 councils where candidates have affiliated with the Independent Network, independents are fielding more candidates than their Lib Dem counterparts. The Liberal Democrats have fielded no candidates for Uttoxeter Town Council, Halstead Town Council, Nantwich Town Council, Buntingford Town Council, Castlepoint Borough Council, Morley Town Council and Melton Borough Council.

In Stoke on Trent City Council 52 independent candidates are being fielded as opposed to only 43 Lib Dems. In Boston Borough Council 30 independents are being fielded as opposed to 5 Lib Dems. A particularly stark contrast is found in Morley Town Council where 24 independent are standing for election with no Lib Dem contenders.

Sitting Liberal Democrat councillors have also been resigning their party membership ahead of standing for re-election. In Eastleigh Borough Council Cllr Moore quit the Lib Dems to form the ‘Independent Party of Eastleigh Candidates’.

Cllr Moore’s election leaflets state:

‘The trouble with being in a National Political Party is you have to go along with the Party line… even if that line is not honest. As Independents we do not have to toe anyone’s line. We can represent YOU honestly. […] And we are not alone. A long-serving Lib Dem Borough Councillor in Romsey (10 years Sandra Gidley MP’s Researcher) has declared Independent. There are 10 Lib Dem councillors on the Isle of Wight who are now Independent and so many more up and down the country. We are growing in strength. Don’t throw away your vote on people who lie to you.”

Martin Bell OBE – supporter of the Independent Network – the only political organisation to support independent candidates at all levels of government said:

“This is a time for independents to challenge the politics of the status quo; it is a time for independent candidates either to stand together in Independent Groups or to help in the campaigns of others. It is a time for the election of independents, without party baggage but with real world experience, to be a force for honest politics in local government. They will be answerable not to a political party but only to their constituents and their consciences.”

Monday, 18 April 2011

Mixing politics and the police

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill is currently progressing through Parliament. Once passed we – the public – will have the opportunity to elect the Police and Crime commissioner of our local police force. A local police force can cover large areas both urban - such as Greater Manchester – and rural such as Devon and Cornwall constabulary.

Independents – more than any other political grouping – know the importance of democratic representation free from political compromise or control.

If the top job within the police force were decided through democratic election rather than the current system should be based on meritocracy and appointment from the top would our police force be more or less politically controlled?

The hope is that a Commissioner elected by local people would have to respond to the needs of those people if she or he is to have a hope of election. This – the theory goes – would be better than an Police Commissioner appointed partly due to his or her success within the police force and partly due to his or her ability to please the superiors. Both versions – appointment or election – will depend upon the candidates’ ability to play a political game. They currently must impress those in charge whilst gaining the respect of those they lead. If they are to be elected they will need to be able to communicate the aims and objectives of the police force to their local community which will require their aims to reflect – more closely – the hopes and aims of their communities. However – their democratic election campaign may depend on the support of an outside organisation such as a political party. This connection may compromise their ability to represent their communities, and only their communities, as they may be drawn to follow their political party to keep them in a job.

The Government has said that no money will be made available for independent Police and Crime commissioner candidates. Instead it is expected that the majority of candidates will be backed – officially or unofficially – by a political party. However – even within party political ranks – there is awareness that a politicised police force would be bad news for both democracy and justice. Douglas Carswell MP – a Conservative politician – wrote on his blog: “I suspect there will be a strong appetite among voters for independent candidates - or at least independent-minded ones. Political parties should be wary of simply putting up party insiders for the role. They'd be wiser to either endorse a suitable independent contender - or hold an open primary contest of some sort to allow everyone a say over who gets to be the candidate.”

The Independent Network supports independent candidates who can demonstrate their commitment to the Bell Principles. It is clear that for a Police Commissioner commitment to these principles would stand them in good stead to represent their local area with integrity and justice. The fear of electing a Police Commissioner lies in the fact that if they are a party political candidate they will follow their party’s policies before responding to their constituent’s needs. If this were the case then the floodgates may be opened for party political insiders to gain the top job due to the resource benefits that belonging to a political party can lend to an election campaign.

As independents it is our duty to scrutinise each candidate based on their commitment to the Bell Principles – especially to plurality and non-discrimination, and to be guided by considered evidence, our real world experience and expertise, our constituencies and our consciences. A democratically elected Police Commissioner governed by such a code of conduct would be of benefit to his or her local police force.

At the Independent Network we will do our best to support such non-party political candidates and to campaign for maximum transparency when elections occur to ensure that party political candidates campaign on a level playing field with their independent counterparts.

What do you think about the prospect of an elected Police Commissioner? We welcome your comments below. And check out these links for articles that come down both for and against the proposals for the abolition of the Police Authority and the introduction of democratically elected Police Commissioners.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Have political parties forgotten the local elections?

Yesterday we had a look at how the political parties are preparing for the Local Elections 2011. With all of this talk of Big Society we imagined an intense focus on this opportunity to represent local concerns and stand up for our communities. After all that is the purpose of politics. You can imagine how surprised we were, therefore, that not one of the high profile parties' had any mention of the fast approaching local elections on their homepage.

Approximately 45 million people will have the opportunity to go to the polls on Thursday 5th May.

If political parties aren't even interested in local politics maybe people need to look at their alternatives. Independent candidates are the only alternative to party politics. Find your local candidate today.

Check out the party political websites:


Lib Dem:



and even the BNP:

Friday, 18 March 2011

What's all this about an alternative?

What's all this about an alternative?

In May 2011 – as independent candidates become 'tellers' at polling stations – the UK will be invited to take part in the second ever UK-wide referendum. We shall vote on whether or not we want to change the 'First Past the Post' system to an alternative electoral system, the Alternative Vote. The various parties are sitting on their various sides of the fence, with party politicians being allowed that rare freedom to choose whether they campaign for yes or no.

Here at the Independent Network we're much more interested in the questions the referendum raises about political alternatives within our current democracy. In fact we will be holding a debate about the referendum during our event on Thursday 7th April.

If a change to the voting system will ensure that voters' and constituents' needs are placed above the dictates of a political party then such a change might be of interest to independent candidates across the UK. However we're not cpersuaded that it is this question of good representation that is prompting our second-ever UK-wide referendum.

Independent candidates have been in touch highlighting a range of questions that the referendum raises. We've compiled some of those questions below. Give us your feedback - what do you think when you see the NO2AV or YESTOFAIRERVOTES campaigns?

Legitimacy and representation: Will the AV system make governments more legitimate in the eyes of the voters and capable of taking big decisions on our behalf?

Coalition government: Will AV result in more coalition government than First Past the Post (FPTP) and is this a good thing? Will it result in more or fewer broken manifesto promises?

Proportionality: Is AV a more proportional system of voting and is proportional government necessarily a good thing in itself?

The cost of voting: The ‘no’ camp are placing a lot of emphasis on the cost of the referendum and the cost of counting AV results in future – especially at a time of public spending cuts. Is this an important consideration?

Framing and referendums: Is a referendum the right way to decide this issue, and are we being offered two options that we don’t really like when a better one could be on the table?

Political context: Different parties have different views on how this will effect the outcome of elections. Supporters of AV may be swayed by the possibility that this system will result in more of their political preference getting elected. Presumably, opponents will do the same. Is this a debate about the ethics of voting or is it really crude political gamesmanship? Should we simply vote for the option that will return the most MPs for our preferred political party? Are we being offered an alternative at all?

These are important questions worth slow consideration - after all it is not every year (not even every 30 years) that we are given the opportunity to use our vote in a referendum. If the voting system just gives more party representation, is that an alternative or is the only alternative vote for an independent candidate?

Join us on Thursday 7th April for an Independent Network debate on the alternative vote. Email secretariat@independentnetwork.org.uk for information and tickets.