Why I'm standing as an Independent

Why I’m standing as an Independent

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I believe independent candidates can avoid wasting time on the jockeying for candidacies and factional infighting which goes on inside all political parties, allowing them to focus on serving the electorate.

If elected as an independent I will not represent the interests of any political party, nor any donor to that party (such as the billionaire Lord Ashcroft who donates to Conservative Party funds while paying no taxes in the UK – or the billionaires Lakshi Mittal and Lord Sainsbury who donate to Labour party funds). I will represent only the people who elected me.

While there are some decent people in the big parties it seems to me that very wealthy donors and big companies (including banks and hedge funds) have too much influence on them through donatins to party campaign funds and through 'revolving doors' between industries and the government departments that regulate them - and i have little respect for Tony Blair, David Cameron or Nick Clegg, all of whom seem to me to put money and status above principles and above keeping promises they made to the people who voted for them.

When my grandfather was Labour MP for the Western Isles politics was a rich man’s profession and so MPs were paid very little. My grandfather, who was not at all rich and had a large family to support, struggled to make ends meet.

He would have been ashamed of MPs who sell their influence to the highest bidder and party leaders who take donations to party funds from billionaires and big companies and then give those billionaires and companies hand outs of tax payers’ money through PFIs and other subsidies to the wealthiest. He used boot-polish to cover the worn patches of his suits because he couldn’t afford to replace them, he was paid a fraction of what they are now paid, yet he would never have accepted any bribe no matter how short of money he was.

MPs are also allowed to moonlight as directors and advisers to private companies and accept payments of thousands or tens of thousands of pounds a year. This is a conflict of interest and should be banned. An MP should serve all the people who elected them equally. They shouldn’t change their position and their votes in parliament according to who paid them the most. It should be a criminal offence for MPs to accept any money other than their salary and any justified expenses.

The established parties by focusing on “the good of the party” have allowed the line between right and wrong to be blurred by what gets the party the biggest donations to its campaign funds – and once the rot set in this led to individual MPs accepting bribes to influence government policy and to vote for or against certain bills in parliament.

Independents are also immune to the tendency in some political parties at times to focus on “the good of the party” (usually meaning the re-election of it’s MPs) rather than what’s good for the electorate and what the electorate say they want. The “good of the party” often comes to be seen as more important than what’s good for the people who elected them, even when it goes against the principles party politicians first went into politics to stand for (though some principled party politicians who don’t just follow the party line remain).

I remember on one occasion when i was still in the Labour party Jimmy Hood sent a letter to party members in the constituency on the issue of government cuts in benefits for Single Parents and disabled people. Far from being opposed to the cuts, Jimmy complained that party members had shown a ‘lack of discipline’ by publicly criticising the cuts, despite the fact that these cuts went against the basic principles Labour was meant to stand for. The public criticism worked – and got the cuts largely reversed.

Later I was briefly a member of the Scottish Socialist Party, but at party meetings in Motherwell i found the party officers all talked of coalition government as a ‘betrayal’, of planning for a single party SSP government, of nationalising everything (apparently even garages and corner shops) and of Tommy Sheridan being a ‘right winger’. While there are many decent, intelligent, principled people in the SSP and Solidarity (including many former Labour party members) - just as there are some decent people in most political parties (except the BNP, which is racist) this and the factional infighting within the SSP turned me away from parties again.

I don’t mean that MPs, MSPs or Councillors should just go with the flow of public opinion, no matter whether they think it’s right or wrong. It’s important that they try to persuade the public if their conscience, their principles and their knowledge suggests a different course is best for the majority or everyone, but ultimately, in a democracy, governments and politicians should listen to the people who elected them.

So, like my grandfather before me, I’m standing as an Independent candidate, not representing any party.