Why did you do it? Was it worth it? Will you do it again? What’s next?
Those are just some of the questions I faced since the election results came in. As I write, that was only 17 days ago but feels like at least a month. After a well-earned few pints and some introversion, I’m ready to raise my head above the parapet again.
The strangest reaction I came across was a woman who said she wouldn’t vote for an independent candidate as it was “silly.” When she explained further, the best she could reply was that the four parties were enough. If the big four, plus the Greens, don’t reflect your views, what should you do then? Vote for someone or a party you don’t believe in or agree with? Not vote at all or spoil your paper? Choice is not always a bad thing and sometimes a different view can make a difference. Sadly in my case, that wasn’t the case.
I still believe that independent candidates can make a difference to politics, regardless of the level – whether in community councils, local government, Holyrood or Westminster. Look at how our three independent MSPs – Dennis Canavan, Margo MacDonald and Jean Turner – have made a difference since 1999. Mr Canavan championed people’s right of access to the countryside and successfully amended the then Land Reform (Scotland) Bill to extend this to country estates. One person made a difference that the parties eventually accepted, albeit grudgingly. However, the key to their election was media coverage and an existing profile. The first two were already national politicians who broke away when their party tried to stop their election. Dr Turner had stood in the 2001 UK General Election and had enjoyed a high media profile, criticising the Labour Party over their funding and treatment of the NHS.
Hopefully this isn’t sour grapes, but Edinburgh’s daily paper covered me more in the letters pages than in reports or articles. The same applies to the two other independent candidates who stood in Lothian region and the various smaller parties. Supposedly during an election campaign the opening of a new barber’s in Easter Road deserves full page coverage while reporting of local politics is relegated to a couple of column inches. That saddens me, not just for my own sake but for how we choose to live and the type of society we want to create.
Would I do it again? Yes – if only to have one less “what if” in my life and I enjoyed the campaign. Obviously the number of votes I received was a disappointment and there are things I would do differently, but it was a good experience overall. What’s next? Job hunting. If you know of someone looking to hire an ex-independent parliamentary candidate, contact me. Will I do it again? Only time will tell, but hopefully if I do less people will think it’s silly to vote for an independent candidate.