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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 03:39 GMT
Stand up and be counted
By Dr Richard Taylor MP

Why do some people engage with single issue campaigns rather than traditional British politics?

Dr Richard Taylor became MP for Wyre Forest in the 2001 General Election after pledging to fight the closure of Kidderminster's A&E department. He explains why he believes people should campaign on a single issues.

Dr Richard Taylor MP
Dr Taylor outside the hospital which he campaigned for

A government with a huge majority can behave in a dictatorial manner.

In such a case, the only effective - but limited - resistance comes from disenchanted backbench MPs and the House of Lords.

So this leads to a widespread loss of interest in ordinary party politics.

To many, it appears a waste of time - thus damaging the very roots of democracy.

To re-awaken their interest, voters need to be offered an alternative.

Powerful issues

The many people now saying they do not wish to vote for any of the established political parties need to be catered for.

Now, therefore, is the ideal time for prospective independent parliamentary candidates to shake off the image of hopeless, idealistic mavericks and to attack the forthcoming general election with confidence and optimism.

As I found in 2001 a powerful, local, single issue is the best way of mobilising the disillusioned voter.

If the sitting MP is not seen to have supported his constituents as he might have done over the issue, and if the other parties parachute in career politicians unknown locally, a well known, local person - known to be on the people's side - has a real chance of success.

No promises

To be successful, an independent candidate must campaign with complete honesty and openness

As soon as voters realise that a vote for the independent candidate is not a wasted vote they will flock to the cause - if only to register their frustration with the current political scene.

Campaigns to protect health service facilities are obvious local issues to gain support.

But loss of schools, loss of army regiments, unpopular decisions by local councils and even fox hunting could all be issues on which independent candidates could fight and win.

To be successful, an independent candidate must campaign with complete honesty and openness and make no impossible promises.

During and after my own campaign in 2001 I was accused by opponents of promising to re-open our closed A&E department.

In fact I was meticulous in promising to fight for this but not to promise success, as I knew it would not be within my power, even as an elected MP, to guarantee this.

Dr Richard Taylor at the 2001 election
Dr Richard Taylor waits for the result at the 2001 election

Results

I have not achieved it, although considerable expansion in the services provided is taking place in my local hospital.

But my election caused the government to look again at the methods of involving people in difficult health service decisions.

This resulted in local authority Health Overview and Scrutiny Committees, Patient Forums with more powers than the old Community Health Councils, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel and the publication of their invaluable document, "Keeping the NHS Local - a New Direction of Travel". 1.

The single issue label will not succeed in isolation during the campaign and it will be impossible to maintain, even if desired, after election.

Huge Privilege

The only weapon the ordinary citizen has against unheeding dictatorial authority is the ballot box

Campaigning publicity material must cover other major local and national issues briefly and a more detailed manifesto should be available for those who may request it.

In this sense, it is impossible to be a single issue MP.

At home constituents bring concerns to surgeries that cover every subject imaginable.

In Parliament without a Party Whip to vote on a range of issues it is necessary to study these to work out where your conscience and your constituents would wish you to stand on each matter.

It is now widely recognised that the only weapon the ordinary citizen has against unheeding dictatorial authority is the ballot box.

Thus more independent candidates with the backing of strong local or national interests will stand at the next election and I look forward to them joining me if I am re-elected.

The key to an independent's electoral success, I believe, is to emphasise not only their particular issue but the fact that they will be independent of Party Whips and will have the huge privilege, which I have enjoyed so much, of voting with the government when they are right and against them when they are wrong.

People Power, a BBC documentary which examines what makes ordinary people take to the streets in order to protest their frustration at unfairness and injustice on a single issue, was broadcast on Sunday, March 13, 2005 at 2215GMT on BBC One.



SEE ALSO:
Doctor plan revealed for hospital
19 Nov 04 |  Hereford/Worcs
Independent doctor trounces Labour
08 Jun 01 |  Vote2001


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