This is part two of a two-part work. Read the first part here.
How would it work?
The Coalition of Independents would be an overarching organisation to select, help (both financially and advisory) and encourage suitably qualified and experienced people to stand as independent candidates in constituencies where the incumbent is a Remain-supporting MP.
The COI would not be a political party so would not be responsible for any of the activities of the independent candidates, nor would it proscribe any political ideology, which gives it great flexibility and affords an opportunity to set it up quickly. No manifesto needed, no party registration, no party organisation.
In a constituency where a Remain-supporting Conservative MP is the incumbent the COI would support an Independent conservative candidate. In a constituency where a Remain-supporting Labour MP is the incumbent the COI would support an Independent labour candidate and so on. Yes, there are also Liberal Democrats and SNP supporters who wish to leave the EU.
The policies of the independents would be for them to decide – after all, they are independent. However, their general political stance would be clear as independent Labour, independent Conservative, independent Liberal etc). Only in two areas would they be required to swear a commitment. They must be in favour of a clean Brexit and they must support, campaign and vote for electoral reform, particularly voting reform.
What are the advantages?
Timing is everything. For most of my adult life (quite a long one) such a strategy would have failed abysmally. However, the public currently hold our politicians in an extremely low regard. They are viewed as self-serving, in it for themselves, unrepresentative, elite, and not very bright. Many are simply voting fodder and often parachuted into seats because of who they are, or they get selected by the party hierarchy after a period of political coffee making since leaving university. Independents, on the other hand, would have real life and work experience and be quality individuals free from career opportunities and bribes so prevalent in party structures. As an independent one would never hold a post such as Foreign Secretary, so the personal ambition associated with many politicians would be absent.
This gives the potential for a degree of honesty and integrity above and beyond the party-based candidate. Voters quite like this about independents.
Voters would not be asked to betray their political roots, which would be the case if there were to be a thriving and successful UKIP or other national and well organised Brexit party. If one is politically to the left, then one can vote for a typically left of centre independent, and the same applies for the other parties. For those with no political home (can’t vote for the Tories, can’t vote for Corbyn, can’t vote for UKIP) this is an ideal opportunity to ‘stick’ it to the establishment.
In this scenario and at this time, the temptation to put one’s cross against the Independent would be compelling.
How could it happen?
It would need a national organisation, considerable funding and a national figure at the head. The first exists (Leave.EU, and others) with extensive mailing lists; the funding is possible from those who funded the Brexit campaign (as some have already indicated), and Nigel Farage would be a powerful advocate. However, one needs a degree of momentum before these people are likely to be interested.
There are enough activists from all parties with experience to conduct candidate interviews, assistance with recruiting helpers in constituencies, completion of election forms and expenses returns, and providing written campaign material.
When I stood as a candidate in Rochester and Strood in 2017 for UKIP, I did something that nobody else has ever done before. I wrote an eight-page tabloid newspaper (The Informed Choice) and got it delivered for free as an electoral mailing. For about £3,200 one can print, fold and deliver to the post office 55,000 newspapers. As it happened, I also wrote the Brexit newspaper ‘The Informed Choice’ which we delivered in Kent (60,000 copies). In tabloid form one can create some very powerful messaging of the right type.
What would be the effect?
It may be that no Independents would be elected. On the other hand, it is not beyond the bounds of reasonableness to imagine 50 independent MPs in Parliament, given the current political climate. Were that to happen they would be able to exert considerable influence. Even if none was elected, they would certainly take significant numbers of votes away from the party candidates and many would lose their seats. Amber Rudd would certainly fail and 150 seats of both the Labour and Conservative parties could be at risk.
We know from previous experience that one doesn’t necessarily need a parliamentary presence to effect massive change. I suspect that those MPs at risk from the COI may well decide to re-visit their opposition to a clean Brexit to save their skin, so there is potential for a change of view from some of these party apparatchiks before the first punch is thrown.
Can you imagine the delight if that arch hypocrite and all round bossy boots Anna Soubry lost her seat because she was forced to contest it against a conservative, not an opposition party, but an independent conservative, fully supporting Brexit and voting reform.
Can we make this happen?