The Independent Network is the only campaigning organisation that promotes and supports independent candidates and non-party politicians. Ahead of the Local Elections 2011 it has launched a recruitment drive to encourage those dissatisfied with party political representation to stand for local government positions. Applicants are requested to “run as candidates for local government positions to represent their communities and consciences [treating] political opponents with courtesy and respect whilst being free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip”.
The adverts are targetting people in all 279 English local authorities excluding London: candidates are also sought to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Applicants from London are receiving advice on how to organise a longer campaign for independent candidacy at the next London local elections in 2012.
Councillor Catherine Lewis, from Torfaen, Wales and recently short-listed for an ‘Online Councillor Award’, said:
“The Independent Network is encouraging people of all ages and all backgrounds to apply by posting adverts on Gumtree.com, Graduate-jobs.com and Wiseowls.co.uk as well as the high traffic Guardian Jobs site. Through targeting a variety of websites they are likely to capture the attention of a variety of possible candidates. It’s great to see such a widespread recruitment drive. Unlike national elections, it’s free to stand for government at a local level, so there really should be no barrier to getting involved with your local democracy.”
NEW CAMPAIGN MANUAL FOR INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES
Independent candidates are being sent a new campaign manual, produced by the Independent Network for independent candidates standing in the May 2011 local government elections.
Jim Thornton, an Executive member of the Independent Network, and co-author of the booklet said:
“The manual, ‘Elections on a Shoe-string’, includes ideas from all round the country for getting maximum votes for minimum cost. Local press ideas, innovative canvassing tactics, cost efficient impact publicity, and the basic ‘need-to-know’ information is all included. Copies are being sent to independent groups of councillors and supporters of independently minded politics across the United Kingdom, and are available for free to all candidates endorsed by the Independent Network.”
Councillor Tom Bletsoe, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, 18 years old and the UK’s youngest councillor, said:
“I’m living proof that young people can get elected. The election campaign is a great experience where you have to learn a tool-kit of new skills, and if elected you’re given the opportunity to represent your communities and have a say in how your council is run. 2.5 million people are currently unemployed. 951,000 of those 2.5 million are aged between 16-25: that’s almost 1 million intelligent, energetic people who could get involved with local politics. Only 37 percent of 18-24 year-olds voted in the 2005 General Election – the lowest percentage turnout for any age group, but we are still interested in local issues and in political issues, we’re just fed up with party political tribes.”
Mayor Tony Egginton, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, the first independent elected Mayor, said:
“The recruitment drive offers solutions to disgruntled voters and those with some time to give – from new graduates to skilled labourers and retired businessmen. It could be an opportunity – in an employment vacuum – for young people and old to engage with a political system that does not appear to represent them. Over the last two decades membership of UK political parties has fallen drastically but most people remain interested in local issues. It’s so important that these people are encouraged to stand for election without having to sell-out to a political party.”
To receive endorsement from the Independent Network candidates’ commitment to the Bell Principles is assessed at a local level. The Bell Principles are the first code of conduct for elected representatives.
Martin Bell OBE, The inspiration for the Bell Principles, said:
“It is a time for the election of independents, without party baggage but with real world experience, to be a force for honest politics in local government. They will be answerable not to a political party but only to their constituents and their consciences.”
TRAINING EVENT FOR INDEPENDENT NETWORK
A training day will be held for independent candidates on Saturday 26th May in London, just six weeks ahead of the local elections 2011. The six weeks that follow are when the bulk of each candidates’ campaign is run. Representatives from the Electoral Commission, from the Independent Group at the Local Government Association, long-term councillors and new media campaigners will give workshops as the independent candidates gear up to the final make or break weeks of their electioneering.
Tamsin Omond, national coordinator of the Independent Network, said:
"Some people would like to run for local council positions but may not know that they can, particularly without selling out to a political party. We want to encourage them and show them that there is an alternative to party politics and that the Independent Network will support them. At a local level people want to be represented and many do not believe that party politicians will represent them.
"Independents are the only alternative to party politics. The Independent Network wants dedicated local people who are committed to the Bell Principles and to their constituents to stand for local government.”
Notes to Editors:
For more information please visit: www.independentnetwork.org.uk. Alternatively you can contact the press office at 020 7609 0777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 020 7609 0777 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
The Independent Network is a loose non- profit association that provides support to candidates who do not belong to a political party. The Independent Network was established to provide support for independent candidates, as no other organisation existed to support them.
Independent candidates do not have access to a large national party structure with its human and financial resources. The Independent Network was formed to attend to this inequality and continues to encourage the electorate to acknowledge the success and influence that independents are having in local Government and can have in Parliament.
The Independent Network does not impose any political views on the individuals and parties it supports or that support the Independent Network. However, endorsed candidates must be non-discriminatory and adhere to The Bell Principles.
The Bell Principles require that all endorsed independent candidates:
- abide wholeheartedly by the spirit and letter of the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership
- be guided by considered evidence, our real world experience and expertise, our constituencies and our consciences
- be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip
- be non-discriminatory, ethical and committed to pluralism
- make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based
- listen, consulting our communities constantly and innovatively
- treat political opponents with courtesy and respect, challenging them when we believe they are wrong, and agreeing with them when we believe they are right
- resist abuses of power and patronage and promote democracy at every level
- claim expenses, salaries and compensation openly so the public can judge the value for money of our activities.