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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Are independent politicians good for democracy?

In the last parliament Martin Bell was an independent MP, this election he is fighting in Brentwood and Ongar again as an independent.

What do you think about independent candidates, does it matter if those seeking your vote are not tied to a political party machine?

As well as independent candidates, there will be hundreds of colourful fringe and single-issue candidates in seats all around the country. Is a vote for them just a protest against the traditional parties?

Does it confuse you at the ballot box if there are lots of candidates in your constituency or do you welcome the democratic diversity?

Have Your Say

I don't think any one person can reasonably deal with all the issues that Parliament discusses

Martin Coule, Brentwood
I am one of the lucky people who get to choose whether to vote for Martin Bell. My view on independents is that they can be very effective one-issue politicians. However, being a politician means taking a view on all manner of subjects. I don't think any one person can reasonably deal with all the issues that Parliament discusses, which is why politicians group together in parties. The parties act as a support mechanism for the democratic process. If we had only independent politicians we would end up being ruled by rich politicians, as they would be the only ones who could afford modern campaigning. Many of our brightest and best politicians come from relatively modest backgrounds - independents merely skew power even more towards the better-off.
Martin Coule, Brentwood, England

I am forced to stand as an independent in these elections because there is no difference in the policies between the main parties - only hype. There is also a growing feeling that politicians just do not listen to people any more. They patronise them and give them soundbites instead of arguments. People feel that they do not have a choice. This is extremely bad for democracy.
Bilal Patel, Lancashire,UK

In my area there is a local independent standing, but only because the Labour party's arrogance has led them to put up a candidate whom nobody respects. In this case the independent man is just as much of an idiot, so there is no difference. We need a situation where local issues are always considered above all others and party affiliations come second-place. This way we get a good candidate, be they a party person or an independent. Nobody is good or bad just based on their affiliation.
Martino Rodberro, Ealing

Martin Bell should abandon the phoney independent ticket

Chris, England
Martin Bell has chosen to contest Ongar rather than stand against, say, Keith Vaz, who has a large question mark over his head on the sleaze issue. Does this not suggest that Mr Bell's view of sleaze is that it does not matter if it comes from the Labour party? Mr Bell does not appear to be anti-sleaze, but rather just anti-Conservative. He should abandon the phoney independent ticket and just openly admit he is pro-Labour.
Chris, England

The question should be asked the other way around, i.e. Are party-political politicians good for democracy? Politicians are elected to serve their constituents. More often than not they turn their backs on their constituents and toe a party line. Having independent politicians ought to be mandatory and not simply a novelty.
Paul R, UK

Anyone can stand and be elected on their merits. The trouble with independents is that you frequently don't know where they stand on issues. We know how Mr Bell stands on sleaze - but what is his stance on defence, education, health etc?
George, Slough, UK

There is nothing wrong with independent candidates. Mr Bell has been an excellent MP for Tatton. I don't really understand why he is standing down there, when the vast majority of people in the constituency seem to want him to stay. He's been refreshing for our system.
Dave Hartley, Birmingham, UK

Independents provide a more effective link between government and the people

Tim Saunders, UK
I believe independent MPs would be greatly beneficial to politics in this country. It would be wonderful if people were prepared to elect them. They would represent their constituents as opposed to a party and therefore provide a more effective link between government and the people who would, one assumes, see their MP as representing them. So why, oh why don't people elect them? They stand in every constituency at every election.
Tim Saunders, UK

Independent MPs should be mandatory. The whips office is anti-democratic and needs to be removed. The Lords need to be replaced with an elected chamber with real powers. Then we'll have a representative system that represents the electorate.
Phil Early, Coventry, UK

Independent MPs would be able to stand up for the people. Channel 4's recent programme 'The End of Politics' showed the extent of unelected, unaccountable global corporations and the affect on all people. No mainstream parties are even discussing this issue. No mainstream parties, only the Greens and the Socialist Alliance will discuss this issue. After all the global corporations wield more power than any politicians.
Dave Atkinson, Darlington, England

Most MPs seem to be in the business of spin, independent candidates seem to be out of place

Alan Warren, Bristol
I consider the idea of an independent candidate within a party dominated legislature somewhat fruitless. An ideal system would be made up of MPs such as Mr Bell, who are seemingly more interested in getting on with running the country than in hurling abuse at their oppositon. However, as most MPs seem to be in the business of spin, independent candidates seem to be out of place in our current 'democracy'.
Alan Warren, Bristol UK

Give me two houses full of independents any day. Then we would get away from the sickening mess that is UK politics today. At least Martin Bell asked questions relating to Blair's creation of over 200 new peers in the last 4 years. No doubt the businessmen signing the letter in the Times are trying to get their names on Tony's Lords' list for the next parliament. And we wonder why people can't be bothered voting !
Doug, Fife

The example of Martin Bell is an odd one. I fully agreed with him standing in Tatton against Hamilton. Why not stand against one of the more dubious Labour candidates instead to maintain the independent image.
Illya Dubchecker, Hull, UK

I think independent MPs are good, as they don't bow to party politics, however I do think Mr Bell has lost the plot on this one. Last time I checked people had a right to believe in what they want, and join any political party they want. What is wrong with people exercising their democratic rights? I would seriously doubt Mr Bell would stand against a party for sleaze if it was "infiltrated" by train spotters, or people who liked politics. If independents were to show the intolerance of Mr Bell towards religious views, then no they would not be acceptable. But if they were to fight for what their constituents really wanted while protecting the minorities they would make the political scene a lot more vibrant.
Andrew, Bolton, England

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Vote 2001Brentwood and Ongar
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