More to come …

July 27, 2009

I’m afraid that I’ve slightly neglected this blog over the past few weeks.

It was a combination of workload, being ill (no, not swine flu) and just being personally busy, that has meant I had no time to post. Of course it didn’t mean that I’d stopped thinking about it all – just stopped writing.

Anyway, I’m not going to make any grand promises of what I write over the next few weeks, but I’m fairly certain it will be more than the last few.

A bit of an update …

July 8, 2009

Ever since I started this blog I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the responses that it has generated. From probably about 99% of people the first reaction has been “that’s a good idea”, but then as they’ve thought about it a bit further they’ve come up with a further question or two.

It is those questions that I’m trying to unearth. I want to hear what people’s objections and worries are about an idea like this. I want to see what needs to happen to move this from a ‘good idea’ to a ‘good reality’.

Whether it’s been people leaving comments on the blog, or as part of the conversations I’ve had about this, there seem to be some consistent themes being expressed. People may phrase things differently, but the general concerns seemed to be grouped around these three areas:

One of the issues I’ve raised is how expensive it is for an independent candidate to campaign in an election, so if we’re going to provide support financial support would seem to be the most important kind. So that begs the question that many people have asked is ‘how is it to be funded?’ The simple answer is that I don’t know.

However, the questions don’t stop there. Because even if funding can be generated questions remain about how the money is spent, what level of ‘influence’ can be gained by donating, how do we manage expenses etc etc.

Again the simple answer is that I don’t know the answers … yet. I do have some thoughts and ideas and I’m receiving more advice and input from people the more I discuss it.

“Yeah, but what good can one independent do?” That seems to be a question that a lot of people are asking. The main inference being – will it do any good and if not what’s the point?

Personally I don’t know if it will do any good; but I’m fairly confident that when the next election does come it won’t do any harm to have more candidates offering a greater breadth of skills and experience and giving constituents more choice.

As for influence inside parliament – well I think influence shouldn’t just be measured directly. If we show a public appetite for more independent MPs – even if we don’t actually get any elected – then there’s a good chance that the current parties will have to adapt to reflect that. That level of indirect influence has certainly happened with the Green debate in such a way that the traditional parties have adopted green policies to such an extent that the Green Party is almost no longer needed (although I’m sure the Green Party members wouldn’t agree with me exactly).

There are good people in the current system
This has been something that people have said to me and I agree very strongly with that (as you can see from my recent post about Alan Simpson). Not only are there some good MPs, but also a lot of good constituency workers and volunteers.

I don’t want to sweep everything away, but hopefully add more good people to the system to make it better.

I’m going to write a longer post about each of these issues and explore each one in a bit more detail shortly. It seems to me that no-one has said anything (yet) that should stop this in its tracks and that nearly everyone that has raised an issue has raised one that will help us to tighten up the idea and make it even more workable. So more comments and thoughts please.

Help needed …

July 3, 2009

This morning I received a really interesting comment from someone hoping to be an independent candidate at the next election. Here it is:

“I would like to stand for Brentford and Isleworth as an Independent. The MP there is in deep trouble and it is my adjacent Borough. I am not known there. I am not just a Johnny-come-lately as I have been an Independent local Councillor in the past. I would like the Independent MPs to join forces to advise on what to do, especially now. I have the rules for when the election is called, but do not know what is permitted and how to go about it. Zac Goldsmith, millionaire Cons here is giving out bags with his name on it. Good Publicity. I can’t afford it anyway.
I wrote to Martin Bell suggesting he might co-ordinate the Independents but he does not feel like it now. I need a mentor. I live in Richmond.”

Unfortunately this blog is just that at the moment … a blog. I’ll readily admit that there’s no more substance to it than that … yet.

Teresa, I’ll do my best to add more substance, to set up a support group and to help you if I can. In the meantime … can anyone else help?

Some MPs are inspiring

July 2, 2009

I was catching a train out of London last night back to Nottingham. I’d settled into my seat and was phoning home. Just as the train started to pull away a man sat opposite me who was clearly out of breath from running to catch the train. As I can’t help myself I started chatting, “you were lucky to make it then?” He nodded as he was still out of breath.

As he got his breath back we started to chat. He’d overheard a bit of my conversation and so we started talking about families and working in London etc. Slowly we moved onto the reason why we were in London – our jobs. It turns out that he was an MP.

I didn’t want to force him to talk shop, but I did mention this blog and my thoughts behind it to try and gauge his opinions – and away we went. Rarely have I spent such an enjoyable two hours – the train journey flew by as we discussed a wide variety of topics – starting with independent MPs, but covering transport policy, European views on recycling, what our dads did for a living, riots, Gordon Brown’s legacy, organic food and traffic lights.

I’m not going to repeat any of the conversation here – I didn’t ask him if it was public consumption – but although we didn’t necessarily agree on everything (as an MP for 17 years he didn’t believe that independents could make a lot of changes if elected) what was obvious was the passion for the job and the sincerity and dedication that he gave to it.

Amidst all the discussions there have been lately (and although I’ve never tried to fan the flames, that includes some here), what we have to remember is that some of the individuals involved in parliament are excellent at their jobs and are worthy of our respect and thanks.

I don’t know how much he claimed on expenses as I didn’t ask, but that just didn’t seem important last night anyway. It was very inspiring to meet him … and if this idea does go anywhere I will consider myself lucky to meet more people like him.

Who was it? It was Alan Simpson (Lab) Nottingham South.

John Bird

July 1, 2009

Last night I went to a talk given by John Bird, of The Big Issue fame, at One Alfred Place. I say talk, in many places it was more like a shout – John got very passionate and excited at times. But it was very good and very inspiring.

Officially the talk was about – Will the Recession hamper new Social Enterprise? (I’ve paraphrased), but it was much more about John’s desire to work to ‘dismantle’ poverty and not just to make the poor more comfortable.

In answer to the question posed by the topic, John believes the answer is no. Mainly because he believes that now is a time that we are questioning in much more detail what we are getting for our money and that includes money from the public purse. And despite the current economic climate there are still large pots of money to be tapped into for the right Social Enterprise, but perhaps more importantly, there’s a lot of money to be made by engaging with the poor and allowing them to work and control their own destiny in a greater way (as The Big Issue has).

One of the points that John kept coming back to was the fact that many of the poor are actually disenfranchised too and it is this inability to take an active part in democracy (in the wider sense, including working and contributing to society as well as just voting) that defines the poor and keeps them in their situation.

Very, very interesting.