Independent Network

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Independent Network
Independent Network logo
Type Non-profit association
Founded 2005
Headquarters
Area served Politics
Focus(es) Independent political candidates
Motto Great minds think independently.
Website http://www.independentnetwork.org.uk

The Independent Network (IN) is a United Kingdom-based non-profit organisation supporting independent politicians and political candidates.

Founded in 2005, the IN consists of supporters and volunteers who advocate non-partisan politics. Martin Bell and Richard Taylor have been involved. A number of supporters of the IN are current independent representatives in European, national, regional and local governments and independent candidates in local and general elections.

The IN does not impose any political views on the individuals it supports. However, they must be non-discriminatory and adhere to a code of conduct proposed by Bell and endorsed by the IN executive committee.

Origin[edit]

Support for independent candidates in the UK has been growing in the past several decades. In 1987, independent candidates received fewer than 10,000 votes. In the 2005 general election, by contrast, 141,903 votes were cast for 160 independent candidates, the largest number of independent candidates since the 1880s.[1][2][3][4][5]

A group of likeminded individuals who had lost faith in party politics founded the IN in 2005. Their goal was to support independent candidates, something they felt no then existing organisation did. They saw a need to promote independents and political awareness as the British public had become disenchanted with Parliament[6] in the aftermath of political scandals including the Iraq War, the suicide of David Kelly and the Hutton Enquiry. Later scandals such as Cash for Honours, Smeargate and the MPs expenses scandal[7] have strengthened the IN's resolve.

Organisation[edit]

Members of the Secretariat deal with the administrative, day-to-day running of the organisation. They are also responsible for media and campaign enquiries. A three-member Executive committee guides the organisation but avoids interference with candidates' policies, manifestos, or voting. Members of the Executive, consisting of Neville Watson, Jon Thornton, and Steven and Daisy Ford, were appointed by a unanimous vote during a strategy meeting with supporters in September 2009.

Neville Watson[edit]

Neville Watson is a professional life/ business / corporate/ Christian life coach, mentor, linguistics professional/ Trainer and conference facilitator has established and supported several social and recreational community projects within the borough of Tottenham. Watson stood for Parliament in the 2010 elections as an independent candidate for Tottenham.[8]

Jim Thornton[edit]

Jim Thornton was a Conservative councillor on East Hertfordshire Council for eight years but left the party. In 2006 he set up East Herts People[9] as a political party to promote independents at local level. The group fielded 13 independent candidates in the 2007 council election. In 2009 an EHP-supported independent won a Hertford Town Council by-election, and Thornton came in second as an independent in the Hertfordshire County Council elections.[10] Thornton stood as an independent candidate in the 2010 general election in Poplar and Limehouse.

Steven and Daisy Ford[edit]

Steven and Daisy Ford, a father and daughter, are counted as a single vote in the Executive.

Steven Ford is a retired general practitioner who serves as President of the Haydon Bridge Community Association. He was previously a Parish Councillor and from 1989 to 2008 provided a regular medical page in a local paper. He volunteers for Sustrans and a local radio station and stood as an independent candidate for Hexham in 2010.[11]

Daisy Ford is a university student. She studied Politics, Philosophy and English as an undergraduate at Durham University and directed a non-party campaign to encourage students to vote in the 2005 general election. She previously worked for a corporate social responsibility organisation in County Durham, completed a research internship at the think tank CentreForum, and volunteered for Oxfam. She worked on her father's 2010 Hexham campaign.

Supporters[edit]

In 2009 an opinion survey commissioned by the think tank Ekklesia and conducted by ComRes suggested that 78% of the public believed that independent candidates should stand for election where MPs have behaved unethically. Another 63% said more independent MPs in Parliament would enrich democracy.[12]

The IN is supported by several notable figures in independent politics,[13] including Martin Bell; Richard Taylor MP;[14] Terry Waite and Esther Rantzen. During the 2005 elections, with the IN's backing, Reg Keys[15] stood against Tony Blair in Blair’s own Sedgefield Constituency because of the death of his son in the Iraq War.

In January 2010, Waite sent an open letter to all independent Parliamentary candidates giving them his support and approval.[16] The letter also discusses several problems Waite sees with the Westminster system and British politics in general.

Some[who?] suggest that the IN has become a political party, arguing that organising as a group with an appointed spokesperson means it is not truly independent.[citation needed] However this ignores the fact that they do not have a collective manifesto, official candidates and the executive acts purely as an advisory body.

Services[edit]

Independent PPCs at the January Workshop in Birmingham.

The IN offers services and support to independent candidates free of charge. Services provided include the following.

  • Administrative and legal assistance for election purposes; independent candidates set up on their own or alternatively register and maintain new political parties.
  • A list of best practices for campaigning, fundraising, public relations, and appropriate use of the Internet.
  • Public opinion and policy research.
  • Organising debates and discussions.

The IN also encourages members to contact one another for advice and guidance, to promote cohesive rather than adversarial politics.

In January 2010, the IN organised a training session on procedure in the UK Parliament for independent PPCs. The event was run by Parliamentary Outreach,[17] a government agency that works to expand the public’s knowledge of Parliament. That same month the IN held a workshop in the Birmingham Priory Rooms to instruct PPCs on the electoral process and regulations. Bell, Taylor, Rantzen, and Lynn Faulds Wood attended the event.[18][19][20]

In the 2010 election, the IN endorsed independent candidates to provide a quality marker for independent politicians. Endorsed candidates could use the IN logo and branding.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.election.demon.co.uk/ge1987.html 1987 Election Results
  2. ^ http://www.election.demon.co.uk/ge1992.html
  3. ^ http://www.election.demon.co.uk/ge1997.html
  4. ^ http://www.election.demon.co.uk/ge2001.html
  5. ^ "Vernon Bogdanor comments on the dying days of party politics". London: Guardian. 22 September 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  6. ^ "Mavericks Bring Election Alive". Edition.cnn.com. 21 April 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Arthur, Charles (20 May 2009). "Guardian's expenses review". London: Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  8. ^ http://www.ttwcmih.org.uk/ Neville Watson's Campaign homepage
  9. ^ http://www.ehpeople.org/ East Herts People homepage
  10. ^ "East Herts People Election Overview". Ehpeople.org. 21 July 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  11. ^ http://www.stevenford.co.uk/hexham.html Steven Ford's campaign homepage
  12. ^ "Public backs independent candidates to challenge failing system". Ekklesia.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  13. ^ Michael White, political editor (24 March 2005). "Bell Backs Indie MPs". London: Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  14. ^ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/elections/article383210.ece Martin Bell and Dr Richard Taylor give their backing to the Independent Network
  15. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/apr/22/election2005.uk4 Article about Reg Key's campaign
  16. ^ "Terry Waite Letter to the Independent Network". Opendemocracy.net. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  17. ^ http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/outreach-and-training/ The Parliamentary Outreach Website
  18. ^ http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/christopherhope/100023596/vote-independent-esther-rantzen-lynn-faulds-wood-martin-bell-rally-the-troops/ A comment on the workshop
  19. ^ "About the Birmingham Workshop". Independent-mps.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  20. ^ "Independent Network Workshop, Broken Society and The Election Date". Stevenford.wordpress.com. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  21. ^ IN Endorsement Pack[dead link]

External links[edit]