The ‘Not A Political Party’ Party?

April 1, 2010

A comment from Mike on my previous post “Altogether rather grubby” discussed the idea of forming a party for independents that offers some form of cohesion and organisation, without needing the members to sign up to set policies and actions.

I’ll let Mike explain his idea.

On the need for a ‘party’:

“On becoming an MP one joins a club. It’s not the Labour club, or the Tory club, but the WESTMINSTER club, and the pressures (and attractions!) on new members to play by the rules and follow the code of (mis)conduct must be enormous. And those same rules and that same code will still be there after the election. Twelve independents are not going to change that, like-minded or not, especially if they remain independent of one another. Much as I might wish her to be elected and hope she could be right, I can’t really share [Esther] Rantzen’s optimism.”

On the structure:

“But ‘party’ can also simply mean “a group of persons working together”. If that group was not necessarily united in opinion about state and its affairs, it would be an ‘apolitical’ party. It would be politically neutral. So what would hold it together? Well, clearly not the cement of political creed or party dogma. But it would have to share some aims, objectives or beliefs.

As a party, it would have no party policies, no party line, no alliance with any other party, and definitely no party whips. It would provide an umbrella for those people who share a common approach and set of behaviours towards public service and political issues, but leave them free to follow their constituents’ and their own beliefs and ideals.”

I’d be really interested to see what you all think – would an ‘alliance’ of independent MPs be a good idea, or even workable?

But I’ll offer my view it as well.

Quite simply, I think this is EXACTLY what is needed. My original view when I set up this blog was to eventually form an alliance or a network or some form of organised group to support independent candidates and ultimately MPs. I intentionally avoided the word party and I still think that this is wrong choice of word – however I agree with the sentiment.

Campaigning for and winning a seat in Parliament can be a very expensive and labour intensive. That is why most people with any ambition to be an MP join a political party as it is the parties that can provide the finances and organisation needed.

However, to be selected to stand for election you need to be a ‘good’ party member, so you become part of the party machine and most of the independent spirit is knocked out of you – or they choose people for whom it wasn’t there in the first place. So we get more people elected that are just part of the same club – no matter which party they represent.

My view is that in a democracy that is based on local constituencies, then we should choose an MP that represents that local constituency – not one that represents the party that funded their election campaign. In fact, we speak with disdain of politicians [especially US politicians] that once elected provide pay-back to the people that funded their campaign. In our party system many MPs do exactly that – at the expense of their local constituents.

So I think we need to create a system, group, collection, faction, troupe [Ed – okay, put the thesaurus down now] – whatever we want to call it that can help candidates get elected, but leave them free to work for their local constituency.

The Independent Network seems to want to offer some of that, but probably for reasons of resources (time and money) sets its ambitions too low.

But I do agree that we should create ‘The ‘Not A Political Party’ Party’. Obviously it won’t happen in time for this election, but it is something I believe strongly in – so watch this space!

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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.