It’s not as odd as it sounds. To gain the same legal benefits as the main political parties, the Independent Network has registered with the Electoral Commission as a political party. Many local independent groups around the country do the same for the same reasons. However Clause 3.1 of the Independent Network’s constitution adopted by the executive committee makes clear that the Independent Network’s new registered political party is limited in its remit.
The Independent Network – always committed to supporting endorsed independent candidates in elections – has tried to operate in many guises: as a lose association of candidates, as a campaign, and as a Registered Third Party with the Electoral Commission. It has achieved many successes, attracting media coverage, attaining national and international recognition for The Bell Principles, attaining the support of influential voices such as Martin Bell, Terry Waite and Richard Taylor, supporting many candidates in elections and running helpful events for independent candidates. However, electoral law prevents the Independent Network from attaining some of the key advantages afforded to political parties, including placing “Independent Network” on a ballot paper and qualifying for party political broadcasts.
The operation of the Independent Network will not change. Clause 2 of the new constitution states that the aims of the Network are: “ (a) to establish a clear recognisable identity for Independents (b) to publicise this identity (c) to help Independents get elected (d) to encourage more people to stand for election as Independents and (e) to promote high standards of behaviour by politicians.” In particular, Clause 3.2 of The Network’s constitution states, “The Network cannot have any political or campaign policies since all its Members are Independents.” Clause 3.1 defines independents as “…people who are politicians or elected to positions and who are free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip.” That remains the focus of the Independent Network.
There are a couple of major changes, however. Candidates are still not required to become members of The Network to receive its full support and they can still apply for endorsement from the Independent Network. However, the work involved in the Independent Network’s endorsement process and the fact that the Independent Network has been primarily privately-funded since it was formed, means that an endorsement fee off £50 is now requested from non-members of the Independent Network. They will be able to use the Independent Network brand in their campaign. Payment is made through PayPal.
However, two new levels of membership of the Independent Network – Affiliate Membership and Full Membership – are now being offered. Both membership grades give free access to the Independent Network’s resources and events.
Full Membership of The Network shall be open to anyone who has at any time been elected by the registered electorate in a constituency as an Independent and who agrees in writing to comply with the Bell Principles and support the Aims of the Network. Full members will receive a vote at the Independent Network’s AGM. Affiliate Membership of The Network shall be open to anyone who agrees in writing to comply with the Bell Principles and to support the Aims of the Network. Members agree in writing to comply with the Bell Principles and pay the annual Membership Fee, which has been set at £35. Payment is made through PayPal.