There's been a fair bit of speculation in the press recently about whether the coming election will see a large intake of independents with the high-profile candidacy of Esther Rantzen, amongst others, helping to feed interest. Stephen Moss had a very helpful overview in the Guardian last week looking at the prospects for independent candidates and putting this in the context of the deep public distrust for the main parties and the popular hunger for renewal. There was also this rather banal article by Giles Coren in the Times profiling Tamsin Omond, the "twentysomething climate change campaigner and modern suffragette" and Stuart Wheeler the "seventysomething millionaire and political mischief-maker" who are both standing. And we recently featured a post on OK by Denny la Haye who is standing as an independent for Parliament where he hopes to pioneer a new form of e-democracy in which his constituents instruct him how to vote through online polls via a website (there's an interesting discussion of how this would work in the thread).
From what I can tell from her Twitter feed and Facebook, the Daily Mail columnist Suzanne Moore is standing as an independent in Hackney, having recently called for a hung parliament. Janis Sharp, the heroic mother of Gary McKinnon, the hacker who is being extradited to the States thanks to a disgraceful and one-side extradition treaty, has also recently declared that she is standing against Jack Straw (who pushed through the treaty) on a platform of civil liberties. "I don't expect to get in", she said, "but I feel civil liberties need a voice." I am very tempted to go up to Blackburn to campaign for her.
With all this activity, could 2010 be the year of the independents?
In this short vid, shot outside Parliament, Martin Bell describes what he sees to be the virtues of independents. He points out that they "represent themselves their constituencies and their consciences and are not obedient to any party whip" and predicts that a handful of independents will be a "force for good". He talks about the Independent Network, a loose alliance, ran by PR man Brian Ahearne, that helps independents to share knowledge and pool resources.
The IN have a list of candidates that they endorse on their website, all of whom have signed up to the "Bell principles" for ethical conduct in public office. I was present at the first meeting of the IN, back in October, along with Bell, Esther and a number of independent hopefuls. I spoke on behalf of Power2010 and made the point that both groups are responding to the same currents and that there are lots of initiatives out there whose aim is to break open the system and bring in new thinking and they should work together. We'll be publishing a list of these initiatives very soon on OK and Anthony has news of a strategy to help people who are looking for change to join together and defeat the two main parties by voting for people of independent character and ideas. Watch this space.