Independent candidates are a viable alternative in the May 5th elections

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 7 April 2011 in Diary
With just under a month to go until local elections, the Independent Network launch their campaign

The launch this morning of the Independent Network’s local election campaign couldn’t have been more different from Labour’s last week. The Network, which promotes and supports independent candidates and non-party politicians, were not interested in lambasting its political opponents. And, not being a political party, there were no policies to promote.

It was refreshing in its a-typical style. There was substance too, with Director of the Independent Network Brian Ahearne introducing a popular theme – that political ideology is unnecessary in local politics. He says: “parties do not have a place in local politics, as you don’t need an ideology to guide you on local issues such as waste collection and environmental health.”

Martin Bell OBE is similarly optimistic about independent candidates’ chances in local elections: “I thought at the last general election that independents would do quite well, but the presidential style debates completely blew us out of the water. But local government is different. With local government I think there is a very strong case for non-party representation.”

The organisation have endorsed 450 candidates, who all abide by the Bell Principles. One of these principles asks candidates to use their experience and expertise as a guide instead of ideology.

Independent candidates’ campaigns differ from those of non-independents. Tamsin Omond, the network’s national coordinator, says: “When I ask independents about their election campaign, they say ‘What election campaign? We are always out on the street, listening to peoples’ views.’ The parties then turn up four weeks before the election and spend lots of money on glossy leaflets.”

“As an independent candidate you can’t rest on your laurels as you won’t be able to rely on a campaign team. You have to rely on the fact that you have consistently been out and talking to people, and they have seen and remembered you.”

“What our candidates do in the run up to an election is no different to what we are always doing – communicating with the public.”

It was really quite strange, in a nice way, to go to a campaign launch that did not involve the speakers using the event as a platform from which to criticise their political opponents. And the launch provided food for thought: is ideology necessary when dealing with local issues?

Tags: Independent Network, Local elections, Martin Bell

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