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.