Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 15:50 UK

Rantzen backs Jury Team project

Esther Rantzen
Esther Rantzen is urging more Independent politicians

Television presenter Esther Rantzen took centre stage at the European election launch of a new umbrella group for independent candidates.

Ms Rantzen told the Jury Team event she was considering challenging Labour's Margaret Moran at the next general election on an anti-sleaze ticket.

She is "angry" at the MP's claim for treating dry rot at a house 100 miles from her Luton South constituency.

The Jury Team is backing 59 Independent candidates at next month's euro poll.

The candidates, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, have their own individual policy platforms and were chosen by text and e-mail votes on the Jury Team website.

The Jury Team says it aims to challenge what it sees as the "corrupt" and "arrogant" party system that dominates British politics.

'Deciding factor'

A spokesman said Ms Rantzen backed its aim of electing more independent candidates at Westminster, Strasbourg and in local councils.

But it is not clear whether she would stand under the Jury Team umbrella if she decided to take on Ms Moran in Luton South.

The TV presenter and children's rights campaigner said she was inspired by the example of former Independent MP Martin Bell, who defeated Tory MP Neil Hamilton in 1997 on anti-sleaze ticket. Mr Bell was also at the Jury Team event.

When you vote for the Jury Team you are voting for real change and not the staged and cosmetic change other parties offer
Sir Paul Judge, Jury Team founder

Ms Rantzen promised to announce her decision on the Luton South seat by next Tuesday - a week after her visit to the Bedfordshire town on Tuesday.

The former That's Life presenter said the "deciding factor" would be whether the Labour Party allows Ms Moran to seek re-election.

"What I don't want to do is impose myself on a constituency that doesn't want me but I do love Luton," added the presenter, who this week visited the Bedfordshire town to meet voters.

Ms Moran's local constituency party has backed her, after she agreed to repay £22,000 she claimed for treating dry rot at the Southampton property.

But her future will depend on the decision of a Labour party panel, which will decide whether she will be allowed to stand as a Labour Party candidate.

'Incestuous world'

Ms Rantzen told the Jury Team launch: "I've been a floating voter all my life. I've never been able to swallow a manifesto whole and I believe there are many across the country like me. People who don't feel listened to; people who have never found a political party.

"I think these people need to follow Martin Bell's example. There are plenty of people of experience outside of Parliament and it's time they came forward to make a difference."

Independent MP Richard Taylor, who was first elected in 2001 as part of a campaign to save the hospital where he worked as a consultant, also backed the Jury Team initiative.

Phillip Oppenheim, former Conservative MP and treasury minister has said he will stand as a Jury Team candidate at the next general election if MPs who broke the rules on expenses were not de-selected.

He said: "I think there is now a role for independent candidates for whom politics is a vocation rather than a career and who have experience outside of the incestuous world of politics."

'Average Joe'

The Jury Team was founded by millionaire former Conservative donor Sir Paul Judge, who told the party's campaign launch: "When you vote for the Jury Team you are voting for real change and not the staged and cosmetic change other parties offer."

He said the Jury Team candidates had "legally committed themselves to our three guiding principles of democracy, accountability and transparency and to abiding by the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life".

And they had all "pledged to vote on conscience for the good of their constituents and the country and will not be required to obey a party whip".

Jury Team candidate policies cover the full range of political opinion, from pro-European to Eurosceptic, and those promoting single issues such civil liberties, better protection for the environment and combating crime and anti-social behaviour.

The lead candidate for Wales, to take one example, describes himself as "an average Joe who is fed up of the way things are".

The full list of candidates and their profiles is on the Jury Team website.

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MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
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