New poll shows public thinks Independent candidates can help reinvigorate democracy
• 78% say independents should stand where MPs have behaved ‘unethically’
• 63% believe British democracy would be strengthened if there were more independent MPs
• 53% say they would ‘seriously consider’ voting for an independent candidate at the next general election
A new opinion survey shows the public thinks independent candidates have a key role to play in answering what is being called the ‘South Croydon Question’ – how to bring accountability to MPs in constituencies which are normally considered ‘safe’ seats.
It follows analysis suggesting a significant correlation between MPs in safe seats and the scale of the expenses claims they make (1) - typified by the Croydon South constituency. (2)
The survey commissioned by the thinktank Ekklesia, and conducted by ComRes, suggests that 78% of the public believe independents should stand where MPs have behaved ‘unethically’.
63% of all people said that they thought democracy would be enriched if more independent MPs were elected to Parliament.
The findings suggest that people can be re-engaged politically by local alternatives to ‘machine politics’, following disillusionment over MPs expenses, if independents stood in constituencies like Croydon South at the next general election.
Previously those outside the main party blocs have struggled under the first-past-the-post system, particularly in safe seats, but 53% said they would now ‘seriously consider’ voting for an independent candidate. The turnout for all candidates at the last general election was 61%.
The survey indicates that people would support independent candidates standing not just where MPs had been considered to have broken the rules, but where MPs had been judged to have behaved unethically.
Commenting on the results, Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the thinktank Ekklesia, which commissioned the survey said: “There has been a lot of focus on ‘celebrity independents’ which has distracted from a deeper and more important issue typified by the situation in Croydon South.
“Across the country there are MPs in safe seats who will neither be deselected by their parties, nor face any signficant challenge by candidates from other parties, despite behaviour that their constituents consider unacceptable. But our poll indicates that there is a willingness among voters to meet the ‘South Croydon Question’ head on and back local independent candidates if they come forward from their communities to stand.
“We see the growth in independents as part of a wider process to break open the political system, challenge the monopoly of the big parties, encourage grassroots paraticipation, and move towards PR and other major reforms in the system.”