Who can be an Independent MP?

The recent comment / post by Sonny raised a really interesting question:

“Though for it not to be just another major party it would have to be impartial to any political view… but that would then mean that I, a socialist, would have to take support from as well as give support to an organisation that also takes/gives support from/to those with a similar view to the likes of Nick Griffin and the BNP. Now I will stand up and fight to the death for anyone to have the right to believe those things and to voice their opinion, but I would also die before giving them the financial, political, or social leverage to overcome my beliefs. They are allowed their opinion and they are allowed to voice it, but I’m not paying for or setting up the PA system to amply it.”

However in a later comment Sonny seemed to answer the dilemma himself:

“This obviously raises the issue that I made in my original post, about how do you get a far right and a far left individual working under the same umbrella. A difficult one, but I think I would prefer to have my chance to voice my opinions, make my suggestions and have a greater impact on central governmental issues whilst having someone of the opposite opinion have their say, then neither of us having any say and the government do what they will. It is really the only way to reach a compromise between both extreme views.”

And I think it is this second point of view that I agree with. I’ve said previously that my personal political affiliations are not important here – this is by no means me trying to establish my own agenda. Instead it is about trying to let regular people canvas on the views of their local constituents. I’m sure in many cases those views will clash with my own – well, so be it.

I think that anyone has the right to be an independent MP – no matter what their political views. It’s not for me (or anyone else connected to this movement) to say whether those views are valid – it’s up to the electorate. They and only they can decide whether someone should represent them in parliament.

In fact the whole point of this movement (for want of a better word) is to remove the barriers that stop people standing for election, that stop the electorate having a full choice.

Like many people, I am personally appalled at the recent election victories of the BNP – but, as long as they remain lawful, they are perfectly entitled to their views and the electorate are entitled to vote for them. If I disagree, then it is up to me to offer an alternative.

So, who would I be willing to support (not vote for, but support) as an independent MP?

Well, the answer is anyone. With, as I see it, three main caveats:

1 – They must be legally entitled to stand and not break the law with what they are canvassing on

2 – They cannot have been a member of a political party within the last 12 months – maybe a bit controversial, but this shouldn’t be about career politicians trying a different route in

3 – They must have a connection to the constituency – ideally they would be currently living or working there, but any strong connection works for. What I don’t want is people parachuting in because they think the seats winnable, like the major parties do.

Obviously one thing that this could lead to is more than one independent supported in a constituency. That’s obviously not ideal, but who am I to say who’s more deserving? So, yes that might happen and again it’s up to the electorate to decide which one to vote for.

Well, those are my thoughts – what do you think?

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3 Responses to Who can be an Independent MP?

  1. Sonny says:

    On reflection about my comment on how I would not like to support a BNP member amplify their opinions, I think I may have answered that question for myself, preferring to have a system that allows anyone to speak rather than no one, but I still think that the issue could be a stumbling block for this ‘initiative’. There will be people who are not willing to put their time, energy or money into a system that dishes it back out equally to all persuasions. I think some peoples reluctance and disbelieve in public services is a good indication of that. Let’s face it, it could essentially run as a public service. I don’t think this is insurmountable but nor do think I answered the question as a whole.

    I have been thinking about this problem a little and on the aspect of funding I have been considering an option based on a company called Zopa. Zopa are essentially a loans company, but they cut out the middleman (the bank). Borrowers go to them in the same way as they would with a bank and offer a business plan, but where this differs is how the lenders lend. They offer the money they have to invest, but get to specify the rate of interest, the level or risk and to what sort of projects they which their money to be lent. So for example someone might want to invest £100,000 in an arts project of a High risk @ low return… a recording studio for example :-). The money is given to the borrower and they make the repayments plus interest back to the borrow almost directly. Zopa only take an arrangement fee from the borrower. Bye bye middleman.

    This system could be employed as a way of funding independent MPs. For example there is a wealthy person wanting to put a bit back into the country and make a difference but they don’t which to stand themselves. They also don’t necessarily know of a particular independent MP they wish to invest in, but they do have a very strong Political stance. So The investor donates money to this impartial third party but specifies that the money should go towards a candidate/candidates of a particular political persuasion. For example; they must be ‘Pro-Life’, favourable to free movement of people and NHS must be high on their agenda, or something to that degree. Then all candidates fulfilling these criteria will be eligible to receive that money in support.

    In addition to that I would say that to make sure that everyone is catered for and that it’s not only the rich that get to run the country (as this is what this initiative is all about), a certain proportion of everyone’s donation will be shared equally across the political spectrum. So for example, an investment of £100,000 from someone who has Green issues high on their agenda would be investing £75,000 in green issue candidates and £25,00 in all other candidates. Also it would be very important that neither lender nor borrower know where their money is going/from. The third party would act as a mediator to make sure everything is transparent and impartial. This would be make sure that pressure cannot be applied either why from lender or borrow and force the hand of the other.

    Thoughts on that?

    As for the three main caveats of standing as an independent MP, I agree with the first one, but I’m not so sure I agree with the other two.

    1. I think the idea of this initiative would be to act as an impartial means of transportation for Joe Public, to become Joe Public MP or MEP. By limiting it to those who have not been a member of a political party in the last 12 months, could discriminate against a perfectly eligible candidate who wanted to run but saw no option other than to join the driving force of a major political party. Also someone who may have agreed with all the decisions made by this major party but now, due to changes in direction, don’t feel they are represented anymore. They may very well still be a perfect candidate for a constituency.

    2. I think limiting standing for a seat only in a constituency you have a link to could be a very slippery slope and where do you draw the line. What is a link. My dad was born in Small Heath but I haven’t got a clue what’s best for the residents their. I think it’s these kind of barriers that have caused the Expenses Scandal. You will find people getting round these barriers by buying a second home in the area or finding some tenuous link to the area just to apply for funding and then we are no nearer an impartial aid for Independent Mps than before. I think if this is to work it needs to be as transparent as possible and allow the electorate to decide everything for themselves.

    To reflect on the Esta Rantzen post made earlier (and the link The Mail article in Darryl’s comment), she maybe the perfect person to get to heart of what Luton South needs, but she has no link to the place. Also as Patrick states, it may also mean that in one constituency there are two or more very good candidates. All with the same principals, ethics, agendas and goals for the country, who would, if running alone, would win by a vast majority. Thought if they were all running together for he same constituency, the votes would be split equally between them and none is elected (a technique used to allow Kennedy to win NY in 1960). However, the constituencies neighbouring that particular one, do not have any viable independent options. Why not run in another constituency and do our best to make a difference their. The electorate can decide if the candidate is elegance enough. We should only aid them to voice their opinion, not say where that opinion is valid. No?

    Sonny

  2. Mike says:

    How ‘independent’ is Independent, and what good can they do if they get there?

    I am watching the whole debate with great interest. The negative-sounding question above is not intended as such, but more as a way of helping me to frame a positve critique of some of the issues you are raising. I know we are not supposed to be concerning ourselves with practicalities yet, but they do have a habit of helping to focus the mind.

    No matter what sort of network/framework/organisation might be put in place to help people stand as Independents, at some point someone is going to have to make some sort of judgment and decide who to support, and who not to support. Immediately, that begins to put some sort of barriers around and compromise true ‘independence’ – either because of the judging person’s/body’s own viewpoints and prejudices, or because of the candidates feeling the need to modify or adapt their own values in order to get accepted. There may also be a question of whether it is truly realistic to expect the ‘support’ body to refrain from trying to influence in some way the behaviour of those people it has supported, however altruistic and impartial it may try to be.

    Furthermore, once elected, surely those Independents would have to act in concert in some way. Otherwise their influence on decision-making is fragmented and they merely end up perpetuating the system we want to see changed.

    Which then raises the question of what is it we do want to change? If we can identify this, it will help to suggest ways of how best to go about it.

    The expenses scandal is one issue, and self-regulation of MPs by MPs certainly needs changing. But you are right, there are bigger issues. Or maybe this one issue somehow captures all the other issues. Career politicians, a political class, parliament as a club, the so-called Westminster Village (which includes some of the people supposedly put their to report on and monitor behaviour on our behalf),are all part of the same problem.

    In a very small way I have recently seen evidence of how the political process is working, or not, in my own local parish council, and I have been struck how the fundamental preoccupation seems to have become an involved game of “navel-gazing” – the primary concern being to show yourself in a better light than the next bloke, and to rubbish anyone else’s ideas, no matter what might be in the best interests of the community. The result is political constipation – nothing moves!

    I think this can also be applied to politics at the national level. The Oxbridge debating society and courtroom barristers (far too many of them in Parliament) have lost all regard for “truth”, or what is “right”, because they have become too preoccupied with the game of seeing which of them can twist the facts and arguments to best support their own position, and undermine the other side’s. They have built around themselves this elaborate system and structure of self-aggrandisement which cuts them off from the real world, and envelops within itself any new entrants very quickly.

    All this does not necessarily suggest ways of tackling the problem, as I set out to do at the start. But it does raise in my mind whether a whole tranche of new MPs, independent or otherwise, would be capable of addressing the real issues, or would not simply become enmeshed in the self-perpetuating system.

    I am sure many of our current MPs would subscribe to the old saying “It’s better to have the camel inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in”, for all the reasons I have hinted at above. But there might be occasions when it could be better to keep the camel outside the tent, where it could piss on the chips of those inside, and maybe this is one of those situations.

    Perhaps food for thought.

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Mike

      Thanks for joining the debate. For me the definition of independent (which still needs some work on I accept), is someone not affiliated to any of the existing political parties. What I hope from that is that we have people who have a passion and a desire to represent their constituency and do what is best for the people there – and not someone hoping to have a political ‘career’ (although that may follow).

      Perversely the test should almost be that if you want to do it you shouldn’t be allowed – but I accept that’s not very workable!!

      In terms of working together in some way – well I expect they will when it’s relevant and not when it isn’t. I would also accept that they would work with the major parties when relevant. Yet, what they should be doing is putting their constituents first in everything they do in Parliament (not themselves and not their ‘party’).

      I want to provide the support to help them do that – preferably without any camels and without any pissing …

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