Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Txt vote plan for independent MPs

Sir Paul Judge explains Jury Team

Independent parliamentary candidates are to be chosen by a mobile phone vote, as part of a campaign aimed at ending political parties' dominance.

The Jury Team organisation is promising a "new dawn", by backing would-be MPs and MEPs with no party affiliation.

Independent candidates who sign up to its website will take part in "open primaries", with the public texting their preferences.

Founder Sir Paul Judge said too many current MPs were "lobby fodder".

Jury Team is hoping to field candidates for all 12 UK regions at the European Parliament elections on 4 June and as many as possible at the next general election.

It says all MPs and MEPs elected with its help would have no party allegiance and be free of parliamentary whips.

'Arrogance'

Jury Team, which is registered as a party with the Electoral Commission, will allow potential candidates to state their case on its website.

The public will then be able to vote on those it prefers. The winners will ultimately become independent candidates for the European and Westminster parliaments, with Jury Team giving its organisational backing.

We believe it will release the same energy as was released by Barack Obama in the US
Sir Paul Judge, founder

At the Westminster launch of the group's website, businessman Sir Paul, a former director general of Conservative Central Office, said: "Today is when the internet will fundamentally begin to change politics."

He said the party system had "turned the government and the political system into the domain of a very small number of people. Arrogance has developed...

"Most MPs are now in Parliament for their own selfish career rather than scrutinising what government proposes."

Rather than party policies, Jury Team sets out what it calls its "governance proposals" for candidates to follow.

These include MPs' pay scales being in line with those of civil servants, recommending a £50,000 cap on donations to parties and MPs serving no more than three terms of five years.

General elections should take place regularly every five years, while there needs to be an independent Politicians Complaints Commission for the public to contact, the organisation adds.

'Cut middle man'

The potential candidates under the Jury Team umbrella will also be vetted to ensure they have not shown backing for "discriminatory" policies on race, gender or sexuality.

Asked whether independents could win more seats using this system, Sir Paul, who has given £50,000 to set up the campaign, said: "We believe we can... We believe it will release the same energy as was released by Barack Obama in the US.

"People now do not have the allegiance to political parties that they used to have.

"They are better educated and have allegiances that are much more fragmented. We believe we can cut out the middle man and give people direct access to the candidates and Parliament."

The former independent MP for Tatton, Martin Bell, said: "There's never been a time when the grip of the political class has been tighter.

"If as a result of this various oddballs and eccentrics are thrown up, I've no problem at all. We've got too much mechanical politics."

The campaign is also being backed by Richard Taylor, the independent MP for Wyre Forest, and cross-bench peer Lord Ramsbotham, the former chief inspector of prisons.



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