Do we need independent candidates?


           Some claim that we need more independent candidates in elections, especially for Police Commssioners. Those who are disillusioned with party politics think that we could find judicious wise independents who could do the job just as we want.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† As a democrat I have no problem with “independent” ¬†people offering their services to the electors. Freedom to stand and to put a different point of view is vital to life in a democracy. So¬†is choice between serious candidates who can win. There is nothing stopping an independent candidate becoming a serious rival for power, if their message is popular and the other competing ¬†parties are unimpressive. Occasionally this happens. ¬†Often in Council or General elections people want to choose between the major parties, because they want to influence which party will end up running the body concerned.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†However, I do think we need to examine what we mean by “independent”.¬† An independent can be genuinely independent of all political parties. That means that they will not take a party whip once elected to a given body. They can make up their own minds, unguided by colleagues in the same party. Some will think this an advantage. However, on a Council or in a Parliament it also has some disadvantages. It means the independent cannot form a government or a majority group to run the Council. The independent cannot guarantee to introduce anything they offered in their manifesto, as they may not even have a seconder for their proposals, let alone a majority. Thay may become inadvertent or unintentional liars or promise breakers. In office they discover they have to change their minds or broker deals with others to try to get anything done.

           Police Commissioners are  different. They are single people who can build their own little office and run the job as they see fit. The Labour and Conservative Police Commissioners likely to be elected will be pretty independent themselves. There will be no whip to suggest what they should say and do.

                 They can make their own agendas. If they became persistently hostile to their own party in Parliament and  went out of their way to disagree with its fundamental beliefs, then they could lose the right to fight again to retain their job as a member of their stated party. If they  fail to  live up to reasonable standards of conduct they could be thrown out of their party in a public gesture of annoyance by the party leadership.

                  There is no similar hygeine mechanism for an independent. If they misbehave no-one will take their party membership away. It is only if their misbehaviour becomes gross that the police and  courts become involved. They too, of course, would need to curb bad habits if they want to be re-elected.

                   The question of independence from a party should not be confused with true independence of thought. An independent might be more ideological than a party candidate. They might have clear and strong prejudices, but not declare them before the election. You do not know how an independent will decide matters or what is likely to be their view of a common problem, unless they tell you in their manifesto. Often their manifesto is very thin on detail.  With a Labour or Conservative candidate you have more idea of what you are likely to get.

                               Nor should the idea of independence be confused with the important issue of the independence of the police. All serious candidates for Police Commissioner and all main party candidates agree that they will not try to mess with the independent right of the police to investigate and to charge people for offences without fear or favour and without political interference. The law establishing Police Commissioners was also very clear on this important matter.


  1. Adam5x5
    November 13, 2012

    The independent cannot guarantee to introduce anything they offered in their manifesto, as they may not even have a seconder for their proposals, let alone a majority.

    And how many of the main parties’ manifesto pledges/other promises are filled?

    What happened to the bonfire of the quangos?
    The referendum on Europe?
    Ending the war on the motorist?
    Cleaning up politics?

    Those are just off the top of my head…

    With a Labour or Conservative candidate you have more idea of what you are likely to get.
    More of the same. Bigger state, bigger spending.
    Robert Heinlein had it right in Starship Troopers (1959). Allowing the recipients of benefits to vote for more benefits from the wealth creators will inevitably result in social and economic collapse.
    This book has probably the best model for a free and stable society I have ever come across.

    1. Timaction
      November 13, 2012

      I’m afraid that these appointments will be a waste of time. As budgets are fixed and reducing as we need more foreign and EU aid and 80-90% of all Police workload is task driven by the public what will they decide?
      Police authorities have been tinkered with for the last 40 years. Originally 50-50 justices and magistrates, then local business people etc and now back to the future with a one off Commissioner. The Police are nothing more than a political football
      If their role is to produce a strategy it will sit on a shelf gathering dust.
      A read a comment yesterday asking what will they do every day earning a lot of money? Quite.

      1. Disaffected
        November 13, 2012

        Right to recall PCCs? Why wait four years of incompetence or failure, there ought to be a mechanism to bring it to an end much quicker.

        Guido has a good article naming those at the BBC who decided it right to have bias about climate change, even though the BBC has spent our money trying to prevent the public from knowing who was at the meeting. Mr Entwhistle was on list as were a load of head of departments like Boaden etc. It really is time a for major change. The propaganda unit must be disbanded go ASAP.

        1. uanime5
          November 13, 2012

          The BBC’s position on climate change is based on scientific evidence, namely that climate change is real and influenced by human activities.

          The BBC has spend money resisting FOI requests because the law states that the BBC doesn’t have to give information to any crank that requests it.

          1. Edward
            November 15, 2012

            Define crank…is it anyone you dont agree with?
            Someone with a minority view?
            An eccentric?
            Slippery slope it seems to me
            Sometimes in history those with crank views were at first persecuted or even excecuted before they were found to be right.

      2. Mark W
        November 13, 2012

        In my area we have Tory labour independent and (someone with odd views according to the correspondent)) For the first time I’m going to register “none of the above” by turning up and spoiling my ballot paper. I can’t quite bring myself to not vote.

    2. Disaffected
      November 13, 2012

      The same as asking recipient EU countries whether the EU budget ought to be cut.

      And instead of implementing what they promised add a few nonsensical ones like gay marriage, Lords reform, wearing crosses in the work place.

      PCCs a waste of time and money, yet again, only George the strategist could think of this nonsense as important at a time like this.

    3. uanime5
      November 13, 2012

      In Starship Troopers only those who served in the army were allowed to vote and hold office. Hardly a free society.

  2. lifelogic
    November 13, 2012

    You say there is nothing to stop independents but there is, the existing party affiliations and loyalties of many people and the difficulties they have in getting any media time and the funding issues. Anyway it seems we will have lots of Labour people all blaming Tory cuts, at every opportunity, no doubt. There is nothing much to stop people competing with Coca-cola, but just try it and see how you get on.

    Why on earth has Lord Patten and all the BBC trustees not resigned. Why on earth did they agree a contract with the new DG that gave him £450,000 if he was sacked and £225,000 if he resigned for incompetence or another reason. He was already a staff employee and anyway £450K PA is two to three times the going rate. Many better people would do the job for nothing.

    Many people will earn less than £450,000 take home in their whole working lives.

    Lord Patten should go, as should the whole of the trustees as should Cameron who agree to such an unsuitable appointment.

    The BBC is desperately trying to repair its image on Newsnight last night. Needless to say focusing on the Newsnight reporting error and Jimmy Savile. No mention whatsoever of the real BBC problems, namely the huge bias on the global warming scare, the endless ever bigger state agenda, the endless dumbing down, fake equality agenda and the absurd pro EU bias propaganda. The staff have been selected in such a way that they are clearly incapable of being unbiased. The bias, for example, on the US election was huge. Even if they were a little bit less orgasmic than when Obama won the first time.

    Labour, with dreadful Tessa Jowell, think the BBC should be – accountable to the public through the BBC trust – whatever that means. Accountable in what way? There is simply no mechanism of accountability. Would the public have agreed to such an absurdly generous contract for an existing employee with a huge pay off for failure.

    Clearly is was absurd negotiation of the (it’s not my money anyway) state sector kind by the trust as we see so very often.

    Let us hope the new DG is rather better and is employed at a sensible rates of pay, say £200,000 maximum and does not have any pay off for failure put into his contract an incompetent BBC trust.

    I heard some idiotic MPs yesterday attacking Starbucks, Amazon and Google for using the tax laws that pertain to minimise their corporation tax. Well of course they do, if they did not someone else would and then perhaps take them over, or just out compete them. The MPs are the problem, they need to make good tax laws that prevent this shifting of profits made in the UK to other jurisdictions.

    They need to look to their failures of poor tax legislation, not blame these companies for doing what it is sensible for them to do, given the absurd tax systems governments have created.

    1. Edward
      November 13, 2012

      Lifelogic , quite right on the corporation tax item. I too saw the rudeness and agression shown towards those company representatives by members of this committee.
      If they spoke to me that way, I would have just got up and walked out.
      Some of these Parliamentary committees are getting like star chamber courts and their powers need scaling back.
      If they want more tax from these multi national companies, then change the law.

      1. uanime5
        November 13, 2012

        The problems arise when companies evade taxes rather than avoid them. Then changing the law has little effect.

        1. Edward
          November 15, 2012

          Thats really a stupid argument unamimme5, because evasion is plainly illegal.
          At present there is no proof that any of the companies mentioned are breaking the law.
          In fact their accounts have been inspected and signed off by HRMC
          Something that the EU cannot say.

      2. lifelogic
        November 13, 2012

        Indeed a sort of pathetic theatre, mainly showing how intellectually second rate so many, publicity seeking, MPs actually are.

      3. lifelogic
        November 14, 2012

        Staff at the inland revenue get all the tax return and understand well how all this tax planning works for these big companies why on earth is it such a surprise to MPs and governments who make the tax laws? Just sort out the tax laws to give a level playing field, between large and small companies, and prevent this shifting of profits.

      4. alan jutson
        November 14, 2012


        I would not have walked out, I would have just replied.

        Have Iwe broken any laws ?

        Have we done anything illegal ?

        Are our Audited accounts false ?

        Who has made the money in the first place ?

        Do you blame us for trying to keep as much money in the company as possible, to enable future expansion ?

        Do you think we will spend our money, more wisely than someone else.

        I believe we have acted in the best interests of our company.

        You are the people in charge of the system, if you do not like the system, then you have the ability to change it.

        1. sm
          November 14, 2012

          Bread & Circuses.

          “You are the people in charge of the system, if you do not like the system, then you have the ability to change it.”

          Do you think the tax system happened by accident and it is all unintended consequence?

        2. Edward
          November 15, 2012

          Yes Alan you are quite right, a much better response.

          They are the lawmakers, so if they feel these companies are not paying enough tax …. then do something about it!

    2. Mark W
      November 13, 2012

      Lifelogic, you’re certainly right on the stitch up in the commons. How many seats do labour and Tory parties actually control by default by being safe seats.

      I normally don’t use Starbucks as I prefer a rival, but I have switched to Starbucks just to support their tax position. I know my had earned cash will do less towards idle loafers. Well done Starbucks!!

    3. StevenL
      November 13, 2012

      Like if they simply taxed the rental value of the land at 100% and abolished all the taxes on labour and capital you mean? It’ll never happen, despite the massive boost it would give the UK economy, as the rent-seeking MP’s prime property portfolios would all be wiped out overnight.

    4. Excalibur
      November 14, 2012

      Indeed, quite right on the BBC issues, lifelogic. I anticipate Patten will retain his post and all will be swept under the carpet allowing the BBC to continue uninterrupted its radical leftist agenda.

  3. Mick Anderson
    November 13, 2012

    The Police Commissioners election gives an opportunity for Party-independant candidates to show what they are capable of – theoretically in charge of their own fiefdom. We certainly don’t need more of the corrosive nature of Party Whippery in any more walks of life.

    As for the fact that a non-aligned MP has no chance of putting forward their own manifesto, there are two points. Firstly, they will cut their campaign according to circumstances – a person standing on a “Save Our Hospital” platform will only promise to work towards that aim, perhaps where the sitting MP works for the party in Government who plan its closure. They are hardly likely to claim to be able to keep the place open, merely to dedicate their time to trying. Secondly, many of us don’t believe the Party manifestos anyway. None of the important improvements we hoped for from the last few elections have come to pass, only the bad things that were meant to provide balance (eg. tax rises without spending cuts, or relinquishing an EU rebate without securing CAP reform). A published manifesto sits somewhere between an irrelevance and a work of fiction – the best the electorate can do is to hope that they show the direction that the Party leaders would chose, and even that seems a faint hope now.

    Geography means that I don’t have the choice of voting for anyone I actually trust, so I will tend towards an independant, non-aligned candidate. That probably makes my vote irrelevant, but in a Party-based political system that’s something I’ve been used to for a very long time.

  4. colliemum
    November 13, 2012

    While I agree generally with the distinction you make, regarding independents standing for councils or parliament – and police commissioners, there is one point I’d like to pick on:

    You write: “The independent cannot guarantee to introduce anything they offered in their manifesto, as they may not even have a seconder for their proposals, let alone a majority.” This is very interesting, because, while certainly true for now and the past, it implies that candidates expect to get elected only if ‘bearing gifts’, or rather that only belonging to a party will make these ‘gifts’ real.
    I am not sure if this is a view held generally by the electorate, or just by members of a political party, but suspect that far more people do not think this way than party politicians do, or even suspect.
    With more information available to the ordinary citizen, and more information becoming available thanks to the internet, I have the gut feeling that more and more true independents will stand to get elected, because thanks both to an increasing civil service and to the EU, work in Parliament may become more about scrutiny of the government than ‘getting stuff for the electorate’.
    But one thing is certain: the established political parties will fight independents in the councils and parishes, in the constituencies and (if they get in) in Parliament – because no one gives up their fount of money without fighting tooth and claw.

    Reply: People want to help choose a government and a government needs to rely for the most part on a majority of supporters.

    1. Deborah
      November 13, 2012

      In every other walk of life people come together, without the need of political parties, to work for the common good – whether that be the good of the company, a national charity or simply the local mother toddler group. There is no reason why govenment should not work in the same way, with people being elected for their integrity and the values they uphold rather than the colour of their rosette and the false promises in their party manifesto.
      More independents would be elected if the current system did not make it so difficult for them to stand and win. The current arrangements, set up by the parties, use cost and access to publicity to stack the odds against anyone without major party backing.
      Level the playing field, let the people choose their representatives, and the representatives will choose the best amongst them to govern. Isn’t that how democracy started?

      1. zorro
        November 13, 2012

        Well said Deborah, anything to shake these party hacks out of their complacency.


  5. David Hope
    November 13, 2012

    I agree in many ways. But..
    1. for me one of the major advantages of independent only is it stops the party machine dominating. Independents like say ex senior police have little chance up against the money and professionalism of labour and conservative campaigns. Also even then if you can tick a party on the ballet paper many people go for what they know.
    2. Politicians (in general not individuals) have a bad reputation with many of the public and having the usual failed MPs or whatever standing just makes it all look like a job merry go round and taints the idea of elected commissioners and can do damage to a good idea

  6. alan jutson
    November 13, 2012

    Whilst I take your comments on board JR, many Mp’s in recent (and more distant) times have also proven to be liars, cheats and fraudsters.
    The fact that they have also been a member of a large (or small) political party, has not constrained them.

    Do you really think that the major political Party’s will not bring any pressure to bear on their members with regard to policy.
    Agreed the candidate may resist such pressure, but why vote for such a person knowing that they will be subject to such.

    I certainly agree you should vote for the best or most suitable person for the job, and that is what I shall do.

    If I feel that no candidate is suitable, I shall spoil my paper.

  7. David Hope
    November 13, 2012

    I’d add that I think independents would be a great way of getting an elected house of lords through. Genuine independent minds in many fields, not pr and party lists by the backdoor which would be disastrous.

    I suspect the clamour for independents would be less were everything not so centrally controlled these days with identical leaders form identical schools. There seems to be a massive clamp down on independent types in all parties as even constituency lists are dictated everywhere. Politics feels less representative overall than ever because of this.

  8. backofanenvelope
    November 13, 2012

    Down here in Cornwall we have ten candidates. If the turnout is as low as is predicted – how many people will actually vote for the victorious candidate? I might also point out that they are all men and they have all worked for the government, either directly or indirectly.

    If the Police Authorities (Watch Committees?) were not working properly, why not fix them?

  9. stred
    November 13, 2012

    I gather ther problem is that the cost of putting up for election has been set too high for non- party people on normal incomes to afford. It is a good idea that the Police should be controlled by the electors, rather than a political elite, who never change anything and quietly take their expenses without rocking the boat.

    I would like to see police pensions drastically reduced, an end to early retirement, a willing to invesitage real crime such as theft, and an end to wasting vast resources on what they percieve is public relations. They could make a start by not investigating crimes committed by the dead and not driving around in unmarked cars in order to take easy pickings.

    Unfortunately, the system has been rigged to ensure that no such policies will be put forward or into practice. Voting for local politicians is a waste of time.

    Reply: The deposit is returnable if the candidate is popular. How much you choose to spend on advertising yourself is up to each candidate and party, subject to a maximum.

    1. David John Wilson
      November 13, 2012

      No! The amount you spend on advertising is constrained by what you can afford. One of the main reasons that party candidate dominate is that even with the cap an independent cannot afford the advertising that the parties can.

    2. Deborah
      November 13, 2012

      The deposit is not really the issue.

      It is hard to get your message across to such a large electorate without spending significant amounts on publicity. Party candidates will receive party support and party funding. Independents have to find all their own footsoldiers across the constituency and fund it all themselves. They stand to lose their own money – bigtime.

    3. uanime5
      November 13, 2012

      How exactly is reducing police pension and raising the retirement age going to motivate the police to investigate more crimes? Surely less money will result in a demotivated police force less willing to investigate difficult crimes and more willing to take easy options.

  10. Pete the Bike
    November 13, 2012

    The prospect of a House of Commons filled with independent MP’s unable to do anything is an attractive one. Since every policy made by government interferes with the proper running of the economy, degrades liberty and wastes a king’s ransom I am wholly in favour of a comatose legislature.

    1. Duyfken
      November 13, 2012

      Much as I am dubious about JR’s (less than) persuasive arguments, which if taken to extremes would mean every institution with elected officials should be party-affiliated, I feel too many “independents” in the HoC would be counter-productive. Indeed, we need a stronger domestic parliament to control and take the executive to task – both that occupying Downing Street and also that in Brussels.

      1. Sean O'Hare
        November 13, 2012

        There is no way that Parliament can take Brussels to task. None whatsoever.

        1. Peter Brown
          November 14, 2012

          Isn’t there? I believe that the UK could seriously take the EU to task if it should refuse to pay the exorbitant amounts of money that we pay into their coffers. The Commissioners might find themselves with one hell of a quandary. They would have to make up the shortfall for their usual profligacy from the remaining contributors. The current furore over in the increased budget demand would be as nothing compared to such a scenario. Merkel’s plea for the UK to stay within the EU framework is nothing to do with fraternal love of the UK but more to do with the inevitable worsening of the already horrendous problems with funding the Euro and the EU.

  11. Robert K
    November 13, 2012

    I will not be voting for our local commissioner on an issue of principle. The candidates are nominated by their party allegiance, which should be irrelevant. Independents have found it impossible to campaign against party machines. Hopefully a low turnout will highlight the democractic deficit in the process.

    1. A different Simon
      November 13, 2012

      With the low turnout wouldn’t it be great to have a National Front police commissioner .

      Perhaps they could exercise a bit of positive discrimination and recruit a few national front police officers to redress the balance .

      We’ve had gimmicks to prop up house prices , gimmicks in relation to education , green gimmicks and one big gimmick of an supposed immigration policy and now this .

      Do politicians still not understand that people want solutions , not more gimmicks ?

    2. David John Wilson
      November 13, 2012

      It is not just a matter of priciple that will stop many people voting it is the lack of any informmation about how each candidate intends to go about the job. The only information that I have seen is background information.

      With the conservative party financing the publicity of their candidate I am left with the only option of spoiling my paper.

  12. Disaffected
    November 13, 2012

    Some of your points are naive and simply not possible. Police forces should have been merged as Labour proposed in 2005/6 to save money from multiple headquarters, increase procurement leverage and produce more officers on the beat. No, the Tories want larger pay head, more bureaucracy and more inefficiency so it can tell the EU it is producing ‘localism’ to con the public (a bit like the mayor nonsense). It will inevitably lead to the politicisation of the police. Look at the regional fire brigade communications centres left empty around the country. This folly has reportedly cost us, the taxpayer, about ¬£500 million and the costs continue as the buildings remain empty. We are told our empty centre costs us about ¬£5,000 per week. John Prescott led this initiative and now he stands to be a PCC?

    Look at the BBC and your previous blog. Are you telling us the BBC is not politically bias? Look at the appointment of the BBC Trust Chair Patten, how was he selected and who appointed him? Moreover it is reported he paid hundreds of thousands for recruitment consultants to get the right person for the job as DG for the BBC. Yesterday he paid twice as much as he should to pay him off to leave. Therefore just under a million pounds of wasted money. This is OUR money, not Pattens. This is poor judgement and incompetence. Patten needs to go ASAP.

    All the questions you raised previously about the BBC bias is well known and regularly rehearsed. The public saw through Patten when they chose not to elect him as an MP. If Cameron had his wits about him, and that is a big if, he would have acted straight away. Sold parts of the BBC off reduced its remit and made sure the BBC Charter was strictly adhered to. If he thought this was unlikely then he should have made it sink or swim on its own merits.

  13. Acorn
    November 13, 2012

    Most of your problem areas are solved by “Recall” procedures Canada; USA; Switzerland, all have constitutional recall of elected representatives built in. For instance. ” In 2011, there were at least 150 recall elections in the United States. Of these, 75 officials were recalled, and nine officials resigned under threat of recall. Recalls were held in 17 states in 73 different jurisdiction.” (Wiki). The electorate decides not the Party Whips.

    I have yet to meet anyone on a doorstep who has read a manifesto let alone quote anything from one accurately, particularly on immigration.

    But the concept of a PCC is typical of UK political thinking. We specialise in nearly getting it right but make sure we don’t actually step out of our historical comfort zone by accidentally combining power with a popular vote mandate;. This would pose an unacceptable threat to the ruling elite. We specialise in SURROGATES.

    A PCC is a surrogate. It other nations they would elect the Chief Constable for a local force. The role of national / homeland security would be dealt with by a national police force and a national Chief Constable / Home Secretary type person.

    We do the same with Prime Ministers. We don’t get to elect one directly, we actually elect a surrogate chosen by the few. Again, the ruling class would never countenance giving that much power to someone with a frighteningly large popular vote mandate. Crikey, he might upset the comfort zone and the real manifesto made in the Westminster lobby.

    1. Acorn
      November 13, 2012

      BTW. The government is scheduled to collect about £45 billion in Corporation Tax this fiscal year. If you paid any, you were unlucky but should have paid more attention to your accountant, I am told.

      Corporation Tax has always been a voluntary tax. Politicians the world over have shot themselves in the foot by forgetting that corporate income tax is the one tax that is subject to extensive international competition. Some like the Dutch, really know how to pull a fast one; bless ’em.

      Corporation Tax is past its sell by date in a globalised economy. The Households are the ultimate owners of the Corporations both directly and indirectly. Let them pay the tax if someone has to pay it. Remember that “tax” is only a mechanism for removing aggregate spending power from the domestic economy. The government has to spend before it can tax, else there wouldn’t be any money for us plebs to pay the tax.

      1. Acorn
        November 13, 2012

        PS. I have never understood the concept of a millionaire socialist, but they do exist. Take Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. She spent Monday having a go at corporates that transfer profits across nations to minimise their global tax bill. (etc)
        Hypocrisy Rules OK. .

  14. Single Acts
    November 13, 2012

    In all the years I have been reading your blog, this is far and away the most nonsensical post.

    Are you honestly suggesting independents are some how worse than party hacks trotting out the tired old party message? Honestly, I wasn’t going to bother voting but you’ve convinced me to vote for the independent, lack of “hygiene” mechanism notwithstanding (for all that’s worth).

    Reply: I am seeking to analyse and explain why in Council and General Elections most people vote for party candidates. I am also pointing out that party candidates for Commissioner are also more independent, as there will be no group, whip and party line from the centre for them. Your choice of candidate is for you to decide. If you want to vote for an independent you should first find out what his or her political views are in general terms, because no-one is independent of political belief or bias.

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      November 13, 2012

      Reply to reply:
      JR ” If you want to vote for an independent you should first find out what his or her political views are in general terms”
      No! No! No! The first thing you should find out is how the candidate intends to do the job.

      1. John Fitzgerald
        November 13, 2012

        “No! No! No! The first thing you should find out is how the candidate intends to do the job.”

        Amen to that!

        1. Single Acts
          November 13, 2012

          The independent I shall vote for intends to do it without taking a salary.

  15. Brian Tomkinson
    November 13, 2012

    JR: “If they became persistently hostile to their own party in Parliament and went out of their way to disagree with its fundamental beliefs, then they could lose the right to fight again to retain their job as a member of their stated party.”
    Really? Cameron is still leader of your party isn’t he?
    As for police commisioners, I still don’t see the need for them except that many politicians see it as a nice, second lucrative career. The three main parties are generally held in low esteem by the public and regarded as mere shadows of each other. Why vote for another? I have received information from just one candidate. What proper choice have I been given to decide? Even the political parties can’t be bothered to explain what their candidates stand for. This is typical of government action – ill thought out and poorly implemented. Perhaps you would confirm that spoilt ballot papers will not be declared as a proportion of the votes cast but will be used as part of the overall turnout percentage figure. In other words, is it better to abstain from voting or spoil the ballot paper in order to show disapproval?

  16. English Pensioner
    November 13, 2012

    Our Parish Council used to run very effectively with all independents until the political parties got in the act. Now nothing is being done because there is no money as no group is prepared to be the “first to blink” by putting up the parish rate. The net result is the parish can do very little, broken seats go unmended, footpaths are neglected, etc. The independent councillors did a far better job as they did what they thought was right, not what the party headquarters demanded.
    And as for the Police & Crime Commissioners, one assumes that a Tory PCC will take his instructions from Theresa May and the Labour ones from her opposite number.
    By the way, PCC stands for “Parish Church Council” and has done so for as long as I can remember, why couldn’t they find some different initials for thee commissioners?

    Reply No, the Conservative PCCs will not take instruction from Mrs May, any more than Boris does.

  17. Graham
    November 13, 2012

    More cost, waste, and unco-ordinated action leading to more crime and more dissatisfaction.

  18. zorro
    November 13, 2012

    I tend to agree with bloggers here that this is a bit less convincing than usual….I Brian T’s point about ‘fundamental beliefs’ and Cameron being leader of the Tory Party.

    As a rule, I am not keen on the party whip system as it operates, and it stands as a good argument for more independent MPs to actually make sure that some pledges are enacted as opposed to gay marriage etc which were not in the Conservative manifesto.

    ‘They may become inadvertent or unintentional liars or promise breakers. In office they discover they have to change their minds or broker deals with others to try to get anything done’……Oh, the irony is too much, John is talking of independents here…..Thank God the Tories and Lib Dems have never been guilty of this!?

    But, on PCC…..Independents can be more effective than party hacks, in that they can have some independence of action, no party whip, and choose their own people to get a job done, and be judged by the electorate on the results. Who cares if party hacks get thrown out of their party? They are surely not running the PCC for the benefit of their party, are they?

    As for the ‘hygiene’ comment and party politics, I shall make no comment other than be curious about these ‘bad habits’…….

    As for manifestos, I doubt that the public want political pledges from these candidates. They want efficient, cost effective policing which clamps down on wrongdoing, not diversity contests…..


    1. forthurst
      November 13, 2012

      Clearly there are significant advantages to being in a party in parliament. Instead of having to understand what is before the house, perhaps doing a little research, attracting the speeker’s eye etc, one can get fighting drunk in one of the many publicly subsidised bars and be steered into the correct lobby by an able-bodied whip. Goodee.

  19. David John Wilson
    November 13, 2012

    The candidates for Police Commissioners should not have been allowed to reveal party allegeances or as a minimum they should not have been allowed to rely on party funds for their election expenses. We need a level playing field in elections and the Thames Valley situation where only the conservative candidate has been able to afford campaign literature is totally unacceptable.

    In general we need more independent candidates in elections, particularly in local elections. It is much more important that candidtes understand the views and wishes of the electorate than they follow some national party line.

  20. Anthony Harrison
    November 13, 2012

    Mr Redwood, the mood of commenters here seems rather aginst your (mild) critique of independent PCC candidates, and I’m not suprised. Even those many of us who commend your stand on the EU and have always felt strongly in sympathy with the majority of your views cannot put on one side a widely shared distrust of Party machines: we’re in a mess and it would be hard not to blame both Labour and Conservatives for much of the responsibility for this. I personally scorn the Party whip system and value independence of mind, just one reason why my former loyalty to the Conservative Party evaporated.
    Having said that, I intend to vote for the UKIP candidate in Devon & Cornwall: the fact that Bob Smith is a Party candidate is alright with me since his Party stands for independence of mind as well as independence for our country. My principal reason is of course that he seems a good candidate.
    It’s always seemed a shame, Mr Redwood, that someone like you is shackled to such a shambolic Party the constraints of which certainly do not keep you from speaking your mind but certainly limit your freedom of action: independence of mind and the freedom to act according to one’s conscience are absolutely essential.

    Reply: My post was an attempt to explain why party candidates usually win. I do think we need to ask ourselves what “independent” means. I guess there are socialist and Conservative “independents”, muddled independents and independents who may make good judgements but who cannot tell you in advance what they are likely to do and say on any particular issue.

  21. Kevin R. Lohse
    November 13, 2012

    In Kent, we have 2 candidates standing as Independent. Both of them have long-standing ties with the Lib Dems. Strangely, there are no Lib Dem candidates. I leave you to join the dots.

  22. waramess
    November 13, 2012

    Shame we cannot have more independent MP’s rather than the gaggle of sycophants we now have.

    By independent I mean MP’s who make it through their own efforts, unsupported by a political party and who might when elected allign themselves with a political party on some issues.

    The present system militates against this by allowing some to have greater financial and other support in their electioneering, after selection by a political party.

    As it is we have MP’s at the bid of their party leader through the whipping system rather than the people they are supposed to represent.

    This will change in time but only in the long term when it becomes quite clear to the politicians that the low polling at election time and the difficulty in raising taxes reflects popular dissatisfaction with Parliament as a whole. In the short term we are stuffed

    1. Deborah
      November 15, 2012

      It is already clear to the politicians that there is popular dissatisfaction with parliament, but that is of little interest to them.
      Most politicans in parliament like the party system because it keeps them in power. And as long as the party system remains, nothing will change, because those in favour of change are priced out of the process. Simples

  23. The Meissen Bison
    November 13, 2012

    If they became persistently hostile to their own party in Parliament and went out of their way to disagree with its fundamental beliefs, then they could lose the right to fight again to retain their job as a member of their stated party

    Oh I don’t know though: the Prime Minister seems to have managed it.

  24. forthurst
    November 13, 2012

    There are problems with ‘party’ only candidates in our legislature; these would be substantialy mitigated if a proper system of PR was introduced, enabling genuine reflections of opinion, so that people did not believe that voting other than for one of the three main parties was equivalent to a ‘spoilt’ ballot paper. JR has often castigated UKIPers on the grounds of theirs being wasted votes whilst at the same time many Conservatives look on UKIP’s agenda and see the policies that they would endorse in preference to the centre wet policies of Cameron.

    One of the major disadvantages of party-based politics is that those parties can radically change their agenda without changing their names, as a result of being captured by special interest groups, often acting as paymasters. For example, the Labour party, firstly was a communist party in all but name, wishing to control the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy, then the party giving unions carte blanche to wreck businesses and the economy, and now the party of people who (have come to the UK more recently-ed), of which more and more is better, and those who(se families have been here for generations-ed) but are more disposed to (benefits) than honest toil. Likewise, the Conservative Party having been successfully Eurosceptic under Thatcher, was incorrectly diagnosed as the ‘nasty’ party rather than the catastrophically poorly led party and has lurched to a position which is pink in the middle and green on the outside and with CCHQ imposed candidate lists, more like them than us, to match.

    In the USA, Ron Paul stood as a Republican candidate for President having previously stood as a Libertarian; his platform, Constitutional Republicanism, has never changed in substance, and in the recent election, his popular success, particularly amongst internet savvy young people who funded his campaign, was substantially higher, as attested by massive turnouts at his rallies, than the ‘official’ candidates. Nevertheless, through a conspiracy of the MSM and the Republican Party hierarchy using questionable tactics against his primary delegates to deprecate his candiditure, the ‘right’ candidate emerged. It was very noticeable that in those states where Ron Paul had been strongest, the ‘right’ candidate was weakest as his supporters had no stomach to support a warmonging neocon with a questionable ‘Wall St’ track record who claimed to be a ‘Republican’.

  25. David Saunders
    November 13, 2012

    Agreed, JR, because independents represesent only themselves. I had experience of an Independent Group on Hampshire County Council and it is a contradiction in terms to have a ‘group’ of independents. This group eventually disintegrated, most joing the Conservatives, because they realised only the major parties could actually get anything done.

  26. Bernard Juby
    November 13, 2012

    There have been numerous, single-issue candidates elected in the past. Why doesn’t this get through to the numbskulls who control the Parties? Are they too thick to even hear the message, let alone listen & take heed.

  27. Norman Dee
    November 13, 2012

    Lets put this into simple words, the prospect of someone like Prescott getting another public job and adding another pay packet and no doubt another gold plated pension to what he has already accumulated over years of service to himself and his gang, is frankly appalling.

  28. pete
    November 13, 2012

    One problem is political parties tend to have the resources behind them to sell themselves to the public so in that instance the Independent will always be on the back foot similar to how the BBC give ‘Air Time’ to their friends in the labour party.

  29. David Langley
    November 13, 2012

    Being old and simple I thought the Labour Party stood for the working man of poor education and manual labouring in the satanic mills. Having a vote but nothing else. The Tory party stood for upper management and hereditary old money, having the power of the establishment and ruthlessly exploiting the Labour lot. No idea what the Liberals stand for but they seemed squishy and nice and worked hard in-between. All the rest were fanatical and either communist or anarchists etc. Independents could think outside the box but were not able to do anything in Parliament but their constituents thought they were amazing.
    The situation today has changed dramatically, Labour is archaic in funding and Tories are skint and beggars, and both have the same policies but choose to pretend they are different to catch their traditional vote. Liberals are the cement between the bricks both major parties like sticking it to them. The remainder are useless and an outlet for weirdos. Except for the brave new UKIP which will need a miracle to succeed. I like to think UKIP is the party for independents, if you have a decent policy and everybody, well the biggest majority like it, then why not vote for them. We all know now its smoke and mirrors, there are no superior beings. Lets have a new choice and if that doesnt work, well I am getting on now lets hope my children will look after me!!

  30. Muddyman
    November 13, 2012

    Politicians destroy the political system by their lack of independent thought and action. Their subservience to the group culture removes any chance of original thought to be brought forward, their cowardice stops any chance of doing the right thing in the face of the ‘ leader’s’ opposition . As night follows day they prove themselves useless.

  31. Denis Cooper
    November 13, 2012

    “Those who are disillusioned with party politics think that we could find judicious wise independents who could do the job just as we want.”

    That’s what Daniel Hannan MEP always implied, right from when he and Douglas Carswell first kicked off the idea that it would be great to “elect your local sheriff” something like a decade ago, until recently when he’s gone quiet about the reality that the national political parties have hijacked the elections, just as some of us warned would happen.

    It’s only a couple of years months since he replied to a comment on his blog as follows:

    “I’d be very surprised if these elections become partisan. Voters of all parties will want a representative who is above party. The candidate who dons a party rosette would be handicapping himself.”

    1. Deborah
      November 15, 2012

      Carsewll was right – voters do want representatives who are above party politics.
      Unfortunately you were right too – the political parties have succeeded in hijacking the whole process.
      After the open primary in Totnes produced a wonderfully independent Tory candidate, I think the government set out to use the election of police commissioners to discredit the idea of open primaries.

  32. forthurst
    November 13, 2012

    The Register is now in possession of the List.

  33. Rupert Butler
    November 13, 2012

    @backofanenvelope (13 November 07:41) points out that all the candidates for Devon & Cornwall are men, which saves me huge embarassment if I should ever meet Councillor Nicky Williams. This candidate’s announcement says of Cllr Williams “She has a degree in social policy with local government, and a diploma in criminology … she is the official Labour candidate”. The photograph that comes with it is equally confusing in the light of @backofanenvelope’s assertion.

    Mr Redwood might have mentioned the not-infrequent practice of LibDem politicians masquerading as Independents. In the forthcoming elections we have a LibDem candidate of whom noone has previously heard and two known LibDems standing as Independent. One of these is Brian Greenslade, former leader of the Devon County Council when the LibDems were in power. He is still a councillor and his web page still declares him to be a LibDem. Very odd.

    It might be worth saying that the caucus of active Conservative Party members in Devon and Cornwall was pushed even to find Conservatively ideological questions to ask of those who wished to be the Conservative candidate on Thursday. However the meetings made a most informed and rigorous selection panel. As a result it has been my practice on the doorstep to tell voters, as I give them his leaflet, that I am a Conservative but “our candidate Tony Hogg is much better than that”.

    1. Backofanenvelope
      November 13, 2012

      OK, I stand corrected! I just skimmed through the ACPO list – perhaps there weren’t any photographs. One woman out of ten is pretty impressive……

  34. Bert Young
    November 13, 2012

    I have thought for a long time that the way the present Party system works makes a mockery of the way candidates are selected and elected .No-one should be allowed to become a candidate for Parliament without having a substantial and successful record ( minimum of 10 years ) beforehand ; the practice of leaving University and going to Central Office is a mistake . There should be more than adequate proof that a candidate has faced the challenges of the real world and risen to an appointment of respect ; the manifesto the candidate puts out to support his/her case for election , should be their own – the electorate must be able to judge the principles and aspirations of a candidate knowing they have not been indoctrinated beforehand . Once in the House the independence of the MP must not be interfered with ; “whipping” is all very well as a means of ensuring all the facts are known , but , not as a means of ensuring the MP toes the party line . The Party system as such needs a radical overhaul and needs to overcome the , so-called , divide between the “haves” and the “have nots”; the selection of parliamentary candidates must take this consideration seriously to heart .

  35. David Jarman
    November 13, 2012

    Of course! Only a party MP would not see, anything OTHER than indepentent is FRAUD! How can you take peoples views in to account if you already have a set agenda?

  36. Rebecca Hanson
    November 13, 2012

    The Police Commissioner elections have brought the same issues sharply into focus for me and I think you’ve written an excellent post on this issue John.

    We have an independent candidate here in Cumbria and lots of people I’ve spoken to have decided to vote for her purely because she’s independent. They haven’t though about checking out her credentials or political beliefs. They haven’t spotted that the person who is posting positively about her in cyberspace advertises on her linkedin profile that she is a paid agent for this candidate.

    It worries me.

  37. Anonymous
    November 13, 2012

    What we really need is a Tory party that stands for its voters.

    As for elected police commissioners what is the point ?

    When the Tory party engages in policies which hide the true crime levels and support the use of cautions for offences such as ABH (an innocent girl’s nose broken in a night club assault – a case championed by Kelvin McKenzie) it is clear that the selection of police commissioners is not the solution.

    It’s all window dressing. The true problem is that we’ve lost control of standards and there’s no way of putting the crap back in the donkey. Those of us who work face-to-face with the drunken public at night know that crime has got worse – we’ve just got more used to it. My colleagues from the former USSR are aghast at the behaviour of the British public. They think we’re animals.

  38. uanime5
    November 13, 2012

    I cannot help but feel that the first time a police commissioner belonging to one party is involves with an investigation where one politician of the same party isn’t charged with a crime or a politician belonging to another party is charged with a crime that the media will scream about political cronyism, regardless of the circumstances.

    The police may not be seen as independent when the police commissioner is aligned to a specific party.

    In other news the number of nurses has been cut again, despite Government promises to protect frontline staff. Fewer nurses are also being trained.

  39. Iain Gill
    November 13, 2012

    the party system in the uk is letting the country and the people down. more genuine independants would be good. more people from wider backgrounds would be good. i wouldnt have any problem if say 50% of seats were reserved for independants, although i cannot see the turkeys voting for christmas. a proper “government of all the talents” would be much better than any recent governemnt, if we could genuinely get some of the best talent that just wouldnt think og entering politics to give it a go. i would also be happy to see anyone who has not done a proper job banned from politics.

  40. Lindsay McDougall
    November 13, 2012

    It’s not only independents whose manifestos are thin on detail. Party candidates tend to stand on their record, push a few favourite buttons and generally fail to mention which laws they do NOT want the police to spend too much time enforcing. When you consider how great the body of law is (well beyond the capacity of the police to enforce it all), this is a rather important issue.

    So let’s try them out on one area of law enforcement. Are there too many traffic cops, do they see themselves as a revenue raising body or a law enforcement body? If the former, what will you, Mr/Mrs PCC, do to change this?

    Beware of candidates who say “I shall do such things, what they are I know not but they shall be the terrors of the earth.” The specifics matter.

  41. sm
    November 14, 2012

    Powers of recall would certainly help to maintain more independence from the executive and make the MP less independent from the voters.

    What triggers this in terms of who, when and how ? is a worthy debate, but lets have some rights of recall, to match with the cast-iron guarantee’s and such like doublespeak & less than plain speaking on matters of major strategic importance.

    Maybe the Liblabcon has at last been well and truly rumbled by the general public.

  42. Mark
    November 15, 2012

    So far as the PCC elections are concerned, party labels are irrelevant. You can find supporters and opponents of hanging in both Labour and Conservative parties, or those who advocate harsh or tolerant approaches to drug users, using motorists as cash cows, defending against burglars and so forth. Likewise, it is possible to find people who are skilled at running a budget and acting as a chairman without needing party labels.

    The poor design of the elections has denied the electorate any real feel for the candidates, as we have already discussed. Some pre-qualification criteria might have eliminated crank or inadequate candidates, rather than relying on onerous deposit, proposer and campaign finance requirements. A proper distribution of manifestos on an even basis, with no advantage due to party funding, would have been relatively cheap.

    The candidate criteria and job description is a highly prescriptive catalogue of over 50 topics each with its own pdf file (my favourite is the one about reducing bureaucracy!), to be found here:

    The suggestion about the skills needed for the job is rudimentary at best. Someone should have consulted a headhunter to draw up a list. Top would be an ability to understand Home Office gobbledegook.

    Local politics more generally could do with a shake-up. Too many councils have become lazy (and some corrupt), relying on party voting lines to deliver a majority for a set of mates – in some cases the party organisations have been more obviously hijacked. Indeed, this also applies to quite a few parliamentary seats. In some areas, well organised alternatives to the existing party machines have developed: Residents Association groupings are quite common in Surrey, where the local party politicians have proved inadequate. They have even had overall control at borough level.

    More generally, party membership has been falling across the political spectrum, and is at its lowest levels since 1945. The proportion of the electorate who support any given party is no more than 25% after allowing for the large numbers who can find no-one they would vote for. The political party system seems to be failing. Part of that is that in practice there is little to distinguish outcomes, and part of it is simply that Westminster is no longer a seat of significant power, having abrogated itself to Brussels and devolved governments.

    Attempts to create monoclonal parties via the whipping system and candidate selection grant too much influence to narrow cliques. If parties can’t manage to be broader churches, then yes, we need many more independents – and not to shut them out via the funding that accrues to the existing parties, and the preferential treatment given by the media to its favourites.
    The role of parties in other elections is slightly different.

  43. Robert Taggart
    November 16, 2012

    For the record – one voted with our bum ! – stayed at home.

    Methinks England (like Scotland) needs a National Police Service – for the more serious crimes – terrorism and organised.
    There be one such, uniformed, already – British Transport Police.
    Then, for the ‘less’ serious crime – anti social behaviour, theft… – regional Police.
    Either way, we need fewer ‘forces’ and better ‘services’ – overlooked by committees of the already elected ‘representatives’.

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