Diane Park: Halifax

May 4, 2010

This is a repeat of a previous posting as I have done some work with Diane and I’ve got to know her well enough to personally recommend her. If you are in Halifax, please please please consider how Diane, as a passionate member of the local community and tireless advocate for local issues, would be able to work for Halifax if elected.

I’ve been supporting independents as it’s my view that as an electorate we need more independents to stand – we need more choice about who will represent us. As we have seen from the recent scandals that have hit Westminster, MPs from the main parties all seem to be part of the same ‘club’. To be truly represented we need people that are not part of that club. If you’re constituency has an independent standing, please take the time to consider the difference that having a true member of the local community can bring to you – someone who is working for the constituency and not for the party or their political career.

I don’t pretend that this is an exhaustive list, you can see more independents on the Independent Network’s website here.

Diane Park, HalifaxName:
Mrs Diane Park

Halifax, West Yorkshire

Why do you want to be an MP?
To make a difference, to be able to make the voice of the people of Halifax heard in Westminster. To consult as widely as possible to discover the wishes, desires and ambition of the constituents of Halifax and to deliver

Why do you want to stand as an independent?
Because I want to be able to say what I truly think and not what the party says I have to think.

What are the main issues facing your constituency?
Employment, education, transport, a weak and un-respected council

How do you think you can make a difference?
With straight talking, common sense, consulting, influencing, promoting and always with enthusiasm and drive

What are your five main manifesto points?
Law and Order
We all want to feel safe in our homes and on the street, crime in this country is too high and many of us do not feel safe. Local police stations should be accessible, more police on the streets and a more efficient response and follow up when a crime is reported. Community Justice Panels and use of community punishments as an alternative to short term prison sentences would help the over-crowding in prisons.

The Economy
People today are struggling with spiraling debts, rising food and energy bills and unaffordable mortgages. With plummeting house prices, falling growth, rising inflation and rising unemployment, the outlook for the UK economy looks bleak.
Government spending needs control and the economy needs a boost, by cutting taxes for people from the bottom up and regulating the banking system to prevent irresponsible lending and business practices the economy would be strengthened.

It is paramount that every child to gets an excellent education because this is the best way to get on in life, get a good job, and learn about the world. Class sizes should be reduced giving teachers more time to spend in the classroom.
University education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost.

Health care in the UK should remain free and available to everyone based on need; there should be no waiting lists and no postcode lottery. Money invested in health care should not be wasted on bureaucracy and should be invested in frontline services. Doctors and nurses are forced to spend too much time trying to meet government targets rather than caring for patients. Decisions about local services should be made by the people it affects, locally.

Buses and trains should be affordable and reliable so people can have a real choice about how to travel. Cutting pollution and making it easy for people to leave their car at home. The passenger should come first, with plans for a rail renaissance, reopening closed railway lines and new stations, using the railway as an alternative to Lorries and building a High Speed Network to cut journey times to Scotland and the north of England. Local people should have a say on bus fares and routes in their area.

What one thing would you like to say to voters in your constituency?
I promise to strive to improve the well-being, security, life opportunities and happiness to the constituents of Halifax

Where can voters find out more?
Website – www.dianepark4halifax
Twitter – http://twitter.com/Diane4Halifax

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!

“Altogether rather grubby”

March 23, 2010

That was the quote from Peter Mandelson regarding the ‘cash for influence’ scandal that has hit Parliament. I think that it is a rather neat phrase – and not just for this incident, but for nearly all current MPs by the sounds of it.

First of all we had the expenses scandal; now this ‘cash for influence‘ scandal; and on top of all that, the BBC is reporting this morning that the rules regarding foreign trips have been breached on numerous occasions by multiple MPs.

It seems to be yet another case when you just want to bang your head against a brick wall and just scream – “do these people just not get it??!!

With all of these cases I’m sure that the media has taken a few things out of context and has happily created extra indignation (it’s what the tabloid media does best). However, the fact is that our MPs should just be beyond reproach, they just have the appearance of being beyond reproach.

The expenses scandal was, to my mind at least, a simple case of the rules of the club being broken and outdated and the fact that it was a ‘club’. Members had been brought up to believe that this was the way the club behaved and anyway, the members policed themselves. It was the expenses scandal that made me want to start this blog and support the concept of independent MPs as I thought that it highlighted that the system of selecting MPs – career politicians and party patronage – was broken. I purposely avoided pointing fingers at individuals as, apart from a few exceptional incidents, I felt that it was the system that the individuals worked within that was mainly at fault.

However, the latest incidents show that it is more than the rules of the club that are broken. Many of the individuals that choose to enter Parliament seem to be broken to start with – at least in moral terms.

I think a post from Ewan MacLeod sums it up well – Ewan isn’t known for commenting on politics (he writes the excellent Mobile Industry Review). But when he is moved to comment as an average voter – calling it “Simply ridiculous. Absolutely 100% ridiculous” then that shows the depths to which the current batch of MPs has sunk in the minds of the electorate.

Gordon, let’s call the election quickly and flush out this lot shall we?

invincecable 2

March 12, 2010

I mentioned the movement invincecable earlier, well I was invited to join in a conversation with the organisers this afternoon.

My view is that this is a great movement for independent candidates to get behind. There are two main reasons for that.

The first is that one of the biggest issues people have raised with me when I have discussed independent MPs with them is, if lots of independents get elected who will actually run the country?

My first response to that is that I believe that in a constitutional democracy we should create the best system we can for those constituencies. We should vote in the very best MPs we can … and then create the government. We shouldn’t accept that local constituents will be badly served just because we think certain people need to form the government.

That said, we will need to form a government after the election and we should make sure that the best people for the job fill the senior posts. Independent candidates should vow to support the best people to fill the senior roles in the government in the case of a hung parliament. And who better than Vince Cable to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The second reason that independent candidates should get behind this movement is that this is likely to be a very interesting public movement. The people involved are very skilled PR and social media practitioners. They are going to do whatever they can to rouse support for their movement – independent candidates could tap into that support and use it to help in their election campaign.

Are older MPs the answer?

March 9, 2010

I suppose in many ways it depends what the question is.

On Monday’s Jeremy Vine – the Radio 2 presenter asked whether MPs aged over 55 would be a good thing.

You can listen to the show (until March 15th) here – Jeremy_Vine_08_03_2010

My view is that, like with so many things, age itself doesn’t matter. However, age would appear to bring certain benefits that the electorate seems to be looking for – mainly more experience and less self-centredness.

We want politicians that will put us, their constituents, first. We should go before their party politics and definitely before themselves. We also want politicians that have had some life experience. Maybe they know what it is like to bring up a family when times are tough, or possibly they know what it is like to run a big organisation with many employees and market pressures. Both are important when it comes to helping to run the country. And both are more ‘real’ to us as voters than being the junior researcher for another MP before being selected to stand yourself for a constituency you’d never heard of before.

The fact is that most, but not all, of the independent candidates I’ve met and spoken to are … let’s be fair and say ‘experienced in life’. But age is not important – what’s important is whether they’ll do a good job and an honest heart, an understanding of what the voters actually want and some experience that will be useful in Westminster are all more important than how old they are.

Do we need a new voting system?

February 23, 2010

I recently received a comment from a reader that proposes a new voting system to help remove the conflict between voting for an individual or a party.

I thought it made some really interesting points, so I have copied it in full and posted it here. I’d be interested to hear what people’s views are on this.

– – –

Can I recommend a system of voting which would deliver PR, has the simplicity of FPTP, maintains the single member constituency, would make it much easier for Independent Candidates to get elected and doesn’t require a huge change from the existing voting system?

Direct Party and Representative Voting

Despite the recent vote in the House of Commons and consequential public debate, the chances of a move to Proportional Representation for Westminster elections are remote. Those in favour of PR cannot build a coalition. The different forms of PR vary in their ability to deliver PR, and are often complex and difficult to understand.
PR also challenges the simplicity of the single member constituency.

An underlying problem with the existing system is that the voter is faced with the dilemma of voting for the party or for the candidate. This works very heavily against independent candidates. These voting issues should be separated as follows.

To meet the demand for political renewal, we need

1 One vote for a party to form the government.

2 One vote for the Constituency MP. This could be by the FPTP system.

And all on one ballot paper – that is the only change we need in the public voting system.

A further change would be needed in Parliament where one MP one vote is ditched, and a fractional voting system introduced. The elected Government’s strength in Parliament would be determined by the first vote. In parliament each MP would exercise a fractional vote. If a party got 40% support in the ‘Government’ vote but 50% of the MPs, each of their MPs would have a vote value 0.8 Independents would have a vote value of one. Non government bills (Free Votes) could be determined by one vote per MP.

Swipe card voting should make it foolproof and simple.

The Government would then have very precise proportional support, not in MPs but in votes. Why should it have more or less?

This system, Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR), would have the key advantages of a PR system and single member constituencies.

• No longer would people be disenfranchised. Every vote would count.
• It would be easy to vote, and easy to count, and the outcomes would be quick and easy to understand.
• There need no longer be a conflict between voting for an individual or a party. You could vote for your party but not necessarily for the particular local representative.
• Yes, it would be difficult for new parties to get started – but arguably less so than at present
• It would make it easier for exceptional individuals or independents to get elected.

This system would not satisfy the ‘Strong Government’ lobby – those who want the system to throw up a big majority for the ‘winning’ party regardless of their actual democratic support. But at least the battle lines and arguments would be simplified.

Not only would this system lead to more independent MPs, it would give all MPs a measure of independence since they will have been elected as individuals rather than just party representatives.

This system, DPR, would make it much easier for Independent Candidates to get elected, would deliver PR, has the simplicity of FPTP, maintains the single member constituency, and doesn’t require a huge change from the existing voting system.

– – –

Very interesting. Do you agree?

It’s all getting quite exciting

February 11, 2010

It is now possibly less than 3 months before we’ll all be able to cast our vote in the General Election.

The exact date of the election has not been announced, but much of the speculation seems to be pointing towards May 6th as the likely date.

And even in my lowly position as a blogger on this subject I can feel that the excitement is mounting. But it’s not just general excitement in politics, there does genuinely seem to be a greater excitement about the prospect of independent MPs.

More and more people are reading blog as we’re getting closer to the business end of this process. But perhaps an even greater indication is how people are finding the blog. More and more people are now actively searching online using terms such as: “independent mps”; “independent parliamentary candidates” or even “standing for parliament as an independent”.

Obviously as the election date has not been named no-one can formally announce themselves as a candidate, but if you do want to stand then good luck and I’m happy to support in any way I can.

And if you can’t think of a platform to stand on – well, you could always suggest we declare war on Jersey.

Three MPs and one Lord charged

February 5, 2010

So the MPs Expenses Scandal has finally led to some criminal charges with three MPs and one member of the House of Lords charged. They are Elliot Morley, Scunthorpe, Labour; Jim Devine, Livingston, Labour; David Chaytor, Bury North, Labour and Lord Hanningfield, Conservative.

You can read more about the news of the charges on the BBC site.

Surely, however, the overriding view has to be: only 4 people!!

For all the revelations we heard about MPs ‘flipping’ homes and listing second homes that were miles away from their constituency (or Westminster) it will seem to most ordinary voters that many more MPs should have been charged.

But if their actions weren’t illegal they were certainly immoral and as an electorate we have the opportunity to be the jury on those charges when the election comes around.

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.