Esther Rantzen – and Joe

January 26, 2010

As I mentioned before, I was at the Independent Network’s workshope for prospective independent parliamentary candidates. While it was very interesting it was mainly populated by white middle-class men (including me), but I’ll talk about this a bit more on another post. However, someone who added a bit of glamour as they entered late blaming the traffic was Esther Rantzen.

In the past I’ve been a little dismissive of her desire to stand in Luton South. And, to be honest, I’m still not convinced about the value of having a ‘celebrity’ MP. However, having met and talked to her (briefly) I can say that Esther Rantzen seems genuinely interested, knowledgable, passionate and determined to the best job she possibly can for the constituents of Luton South.

We had a very brief conversation about the question of whether not being a local would hinder her chances, or perhaps more importantly, affect her ability to be effective. Esther (as I now know her … ohh, get me!) had had this conversation with a constituent who had replied “Local” when asked what the first quality was they were looking for in a candidate. Esther had replied, “instead of able?”

My response to this was that nearly all constituents want someone who is ‘representative’ of them and their constituency and being local is a short-hand way to ensure that.

My point from all of this though is to say that Esther Rantzen seems committed to the constituents of Luton South and, should she be elected (and based on the limited amount of time I met her for) would make a very good MP.

However, on the same day I also met another prospective independent candidate for Luton South – Joe Hall.

Unfortunately I spoke to him even less than I spoke to Esther Rantzen – we met and had a chat, then the busy day took hold and I didn’t get the chance to chat again. But, he too seems like a genuinely passionate candidate and someone who would also make a great MP.

Joe is local to Luton South and seems determined to represent and promote his area to the best of his ability. As he says on his website:

“Since 1951 the people of Luton South have always elected an MP from the party that wins the country. If it’s good for Luton to have an MP from the ruling party, we would be thriving, we should have a better town to live in than anywhere else in the UK. But that isn’t the case. We need better and deserve better.”

Some people were saying that it’s a shame that two independent candidates were going to stand – ie that would reduce the chance of an independent being elected. However for me it is really positive. The whole point of independent candidates for me is not about the winning (although that would be nice), but it is to offer real choice to the electorate. Two independent candidates can offer more choice than one.

I just hope that Esther Rantzen’s celebrity doesn’t generate extra, unearned votes. I hope that people vote for her only if they think she will make a genuinely good MP for them. Because one thing I’m very happy about is that Luton South now has two great independent candidates.


Dr Richard Taylor, Independent for Wyre Forest

January 25, 2010

It was really interesting to hear Dr Richard Taylor the independent MP for Wyre Forest speak on Saturday. He was the first speaker at the workshop for independent candidates on Saturday – and it was a great way to kick off the day.

The one thing that came through very clearly while he was speaking was his enthusiasm for being an MP and the sense of responsibility he felt at having been given such an important job. In fact he talked several times of the ‘tremendous responsibility’ he had been given.

It wasn’t just being an MP that he had such enthusiasm for – it was being an independent MP.

He spoke quite eloquently about the problems it can bring – which was also one of the main privileges – having to decide for yourself how to vote on each issue.

For most party MPs the decision making process is removed for them as they have whips to tell them how to vote, or even if the whips aren’t there they just vote against the other lot. They don’t have to consider what is best, to genuinely weigh up the facts of the case, to reflect on what would be best for their constituency or the country. In many instances they only have to take into account what is best for their career – and that, of course, is voting along party lines.

As an independent you have both the luxury and the responsibility of voting with your conscience on each occasion.

I was honoured to be able to meet, talk to (briefly) and listen to Dr Richard Taylor explain this so well.


Independent Network’s Workshop

January 24, 2010

Yesterday I was at the Independent Network’s workshop for prospective independent candidates in Birmingham. It was a good day and really good to meet a large number of people who wanted to make a change and be brave enough to stand as an independent candidate.

The day was kicked of Dr Richard Taylor who was incredibly motivating and other speakers, including Martin Bell, continued to offer advice, ideas and further motivation.

I’m going to write a bit more over the next few days.


The Principles for an Independent MP

January 11, 2010

Reading through the blog from the Independent Network I came across a post from back in November which outlines the key principles that they want all independent MPs to follow.

The principles follow an initial draft by Martin Bell and have then been finalised and adopted by the Independent Network.

Of course the Seven Principles of Public Life produced by Lord Nolan are the basis for the guiding principles of the Independent Network – but they also look to take Lord Nolan’s ideas much further.

You can read the original post here, but it’s worth repeating all the principles anyway.

THE BELL PRINCIPLES

We will

• abide wholeheartedly by the spirit and letter of the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership

• be guided by considered evidence, our real world experience and expertise, our constituencies and our consciences

• be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip

• be non-discriminatory, ethical and committed to pluralism

• make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based

• listen, consulting our communities constantly and innovatively

• treat political opponents with courtesy and respect, challenging them when we believe they are wrong, and agreeing with them when we believe they are right

• resist abuses of power and patronage and promote democracy at every level

• work with other elected independents as a Group with a chosen spokesperson

• claim expenses, salaries and compensation openly so the public can judge the value for money of our activities.

I’m not sure how anyone with any true feelings for the independence of MPs could argue with any of these principles (although I’m sure that there will be some people wanting to ‘discuss’ the final wording).

I would like to add one more suggestion from me. Although this point is hinted at in points 2, 3 and 6 above I would like to make it explicit within the guidelines for any prospective independent candidate:

[We will] represent all of our constituents and work hard to put their needs at the forefront of all activities

So, who wants to sign up and follow those principles?


Workshop for Prospective Parliamentary Candidates

January 6, 2010

The Independent Network is running a workshop for anyone interested in standing as an independent parliamentary candidate. It’s on January 23rd in Birmingham and you can find out more information here on the Facebook page.

Sounds interesting and although I don’t want to stand myself I’m going to try and go along. Maybe I’ll see you there?


Terry Waite’s letter to independent candidates

January 6, 2010

On it’s website the Independent Network has got a letter from Terry Waite which he calls “A New Year Letter to Independent Candidates from Terry Waite”. It’s not the rousing, motivational piece that I was hoping for and half expecting, but it’s still well worth a read here.

A couple of phrases stuck out to me:

“I am an ordinary voting member of the public and as such am gravely concerned about the political health of our country.”

That’s obviously not quite true as Terry Waite is a well known public figure and one who has previously suggested that he may stand as an independent candidate and it is this public recognition that the Independent Network wants to use to support the movement for independent candidates. However, beyond that Terry Waite doesn’t have any political influence and I think his tone is right – anyone and everyone should be concerned about our political system.

“The country needs a strong and healthy Parliament composed of Members who can and will truly represent their constituents and at the same time have the vision and foresight to lead in constructive ways.”

This to me is at the crux of the issue and the main reason why I feel we need more independent candidates – true local representation. Many MPs, especially loyal party members, put the party and themselves and their career before their constituency and that is not what our political system should be about. Local MPs should represent the local population first, the country second and any political association they may have third (at best).

Well done to the Independent Network for getting this endorsement from Terry Waite. Let’s hope it persuades more people to support independent candidates, or even consider standing.


Is 2010 the year you stand for Parliament?

January 4, 2010

So, did you set some resolutions at New Year? Was one of them along the lines of “Make a difference”? If so, then you should consider standing as an independent parliamentary candidate.

We know that there’s going to be an election this year and we also know that there has been much more public acceptance of the concept of independent parliamentary candidates.

Now is the time that as an electorate we have to make a stand and try to make a difference – and what greater cause could there be than trying to improve the way democracy works in this country?

So many people are still angry about the MPs’ expenses scandal and see that as indicative of a deeper sore in our political system that there is goodwill being shown to independent candidates. That doesn’t mean that an independent will automatically be elected, even in the constituencies that have standing MPs that have been embarrassed by the expenses scandal. However, it does mean that the door has been opened.

So, do you want to stand?

If you do, it will require hard work, determination and possibly a bit of luck to get elected, but this blog will support you as much as it can to help you raise your profile and get votes.

Let’s try to make 2010 the year that independent MPs became a political reality.