Tuesday, 10 May 2016

"Would we be better governed if we had more independent politicians?"

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Futures Forum: Flatpack democracy: the new English political revolt
Futures Forum: Local elections: Thursday 5th May: Independents' Day?

In the wake of last week's elections, there was an interesting piece which finished off the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning.

Sarah Montague opened the interview with the question: "Would we be better governed if we had more independent politicians?"


A £6 million fund to support independent candidates standing for parliament will be launched at 10.30 am by former minister, Digby Jones, and the Campaign for a Free Parliament. 
Lord Jones is supporting the campaign because he believes that the existing party system is undemocratic and failing to support the long term interests of the British people. 
He joins us on the programme and Claire Wright is Independent Parliamentary candidate for East Devon in 2015.

BBC Radio 4 - Today, 09/05/2016

This is the comment from Cllr Claire Wright's blog from yesterday:

Finally, independent candidates in general elections to get a fighting chance of winning ...

Monday, 09 May 2016 3 Comments by Claire

I was unexpectedly invited for interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning about a truly excellent scheme that I believe will ultimately turn the tide for independent candidates in general elections and offer them a credible platform along with vital funding.

Launched today by Lord Digby Jones is Free Parliament, where primaries are held in every single constituency in the country to allow independent candidates to be selected and run campaigns backed by and funded by this scheme -http://freeparliament.org.uk/

The three main challenges for an independent are:
Getting known, funding and credibility. If this initiative works, it will go a very long way to addressing these issues.

In order to be considered candidates must sign up to a very sensible set of principles, promoted by Martin Bell, a former independent MP and BBC journalist.

Excellent all round!

Here’s the brief interview - at 02.55.32 - on this morning’s Today Programme -http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b079mwss#play


1. At 10:40 am on 09th May Martin Shaw wrote:

Great that national media have given you a voice, Claire. The idea of open primaries is good and the funding is enticing. However one has to ask where the money comes from - it looks very much as this whole initiative is the plaything of one rich man, supported by his friends ‘from the world of business’. The campaign already has a position on the EU - how was this decided? And it’s anti-Proportional Representation. I think this needs to be treated with wariness - a bottom-up alliance of Independents would be a much better way to go.

2. At 10:52 am on 09th May Claire Wright wrote:

Hi Martin, yes you are right to be cautious and there does seem to be a view on the EU but that is ok. The main thing is that the selection process is fair and candidates are selected by their communities in a series of primaries. Unless I have read the situation incorrectly candidates won’t have to ascribe to a set of political views, just a set of principles for being a public servant which are very sensible. Of course, before getting involved it will be vital to read the small print and the funding source will need some scrutiny. I do feel genuine hope though that this might really change things!

3. At 12:21 pm on 09th May Paul F wrote:

You cannot argue with the concept that getting known, having funding (to get yourself known) and credibility are all to the good.

However, as the election of Alison Hernandez as PCC has shown:

a. The electorate are not interested in credibility - they voted for Hernandez despite her credibility being zero because she is under investigation for electoral fraud and because she has zero experience relevant to being PCC. We need the electorate to stop voting like zombies for the party that their father supported, and start to think about the issues and who would be best for the job. Getting known, having funding and having credibility have no impact if voters act like zombies.

b. Having funding doesn’t help if journalists only invite party candidates to take part in debates; Bob Spencer had fantastic credibility but was still not invited to debates Money can not buy you that kind of media visibility and without it you haven’t a hope. We need journalists to accept that credible independent candidates are as valid and credible as party candidates and give them equal billing.

c. We need a system which stops the minority vote being split - proportional representation or STV are ways to achieve this. Primaries are a possible way of achieving this, but only if other independents voluntarily stay away (which IMO they won’t).

This is not to say that what Digby Jones and Martin Bell are doing is not good (which remains to be seen), but without other structural changes IMO it is unlikely to make much real difference.

Finally, independent candidates in general elections to get a fighting chance of winning ... Claire Wright.

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