Are Independents ‘The Solution’?

Dr Richard Taylor was elected as an Independent MP because of concern over a specific local issue which led to the formation of the Independent Kiddiminster Hospital and Health Concern political party.

Dr Richard Taylor was elected as an Independent MP because of concern over a specific local issue which led to the formation of the Independent Kiddiminster Hospital and Health Concern political party.

Very interesting piece over at The Wardman Wire which has been re-posted from the Ekkelsia website. It looks are the role political independents have to play in reviving public trust in politics. I am quite forthright on my view on independents but I think broadly speaking they fall into two categories; those genuine independents who coalesce around a specific campaign or issue and those who are, frankly, to my mind showboating and who often have no substantive policy or claim to represent people in politics other than the fact they are independent. To my mind the latter category should pretty universally always be opposed by the parties where as the former kind sometimes have something to offer and deserve a kinda ride electorally.

On the surface Ekkelsia produce some pretty spectacular findings;

“A new opinion survey commissioned by the thinktank Ekklesia and conducted by ComRes, suggests that 78 per cent of the public believe that independent candidates should stand for election where MPs have behaved ‘unethically’.

63 per cent of all people also said that they thought democracy would be enriched if more independent MPs were elected to Parliament.

The findings suggest that people can be re-engaged politically by local alternatives to ‘machine politics’, following disillusionment over MPs expenses.

Previously those outside the main party blocs have struggled under the first-past-the-post system, particularly in safe seats, but in Ekklesia’s poll, 53 per cent said they would now ‘seriously consider’ voting for an independent candidate.”

However, I can’t help but feel that time will erode those numbers and indeed there are already sign’s that the ‘Others’ numbers are starting to drop off a little in the latest clutch of opinion polls. Also, the blunt truth is that during a General Election campaign peoples minds tend naturally to concentrate, probably in many cases for the only time in the whole political cycle, on actual policies so independents; lacking as they usually are in substantive policy become cruelly exposed. So, I can’t help but think these figures are a momentary inflation due to expenses.

The article talks alot about Dr Richard Taylor, MP for Wyre Forest who has been Independent MP for that area since 2001. However, to my mind he is an example of the more ‘genuine’ kind of Independent as he was elected because of local concern about a very specific issue; ie, Kiddiminster Hospital. In that sense he is something of a ‘class above’ the likes of the Jury Team and None of the Above who represent in the formers case another; probably doomed-to-failure attempt to dabble in politics by somebody who is rich and in the latter case a semi-anarchistic attempt to change the construction of the ballot paper.

Dr Taylor is really somebody who, if the main parties were functioning more responsively, would probably have been snapped-up by one of them. Membership of mainstream parties has tanked in the case of all three and that in itself shows the genesis of the real problem; membership has tanked, become demoralised and atomised and is thus less effective at holding it’s representatives to account. The challenge for all those who want to restore trust in politics is actually the challenge for the mainstream parties to start attracting members again and thus become more organically linked to their roots. At the end of the day that is the long-term solution to this; not the election of vast swathes of independent MP’s.


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2 responses to “Are Independents ‘The Solution’?”

  1. Matt Wardman says :

    Thanks for the link.

    This is something we’ll be thinking about more over the summer.

    >hose genuine independents who coalesce around a specific campaign or issue

    I’d add “coalesce around a specific community” as a third category – for example in my area we have a “Residents’ Association” councillor, and in certain places there is a long tradition. I’d also be more positive about Independents at a more local level, although I can see an interesting role for “cross-bench” MPs.

    The big issue for Independents is perhaps to have time to become organised and develop the equivalent of the “nouse” which exists in political parties. In Mansfield it seems to work spectacularly well. In Ashfield next door there was an Independent run Council that was less effective.

    In one or two places Independents have run local councils for decades.


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Your welcome. I am happy to add a third catergory along those lines; and I am happy to be more positive about Independents in general when I feel they represent something and it is true that in local politics that is often more the case where, for example, the new Lord Mayor of Leeds is in fact from a group of Morely Independents and they obviously represent some grassroots feeling from that area which is all well and good.

    I think you are probably right and that is why it maybe becomes attractive to them to drift off to something like the Jury Team which at least has money behind it however the JT as I have said represent the kind of independent contribution I don’t like and have been hostile too on this blog in the past.

    There is an element of me being bound to say what I say about being in a party being the solution but I do think it is an issue that potentially is not addressed in this debate and in many ways Independent politics can damage the main parties by alibing a lack of responsivness and engagement so it works both ways I think.


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