Alongside Labour’s Martin Linton, the Conservatives Jane Ellison and whoever the Liberal Democrats put forward (assuming they do) there is now an independent!
I’ve just been canvassed by Tom Fox – well, not canvassed, as such (canvassing has a specific purpose) – but invited along for some mulled wine and mince pies at an event he’s holding to outline his anti-corruption platform.
Looking at his campaign website he seems to have been going for a few months at least; it’s a long slog to the election when you have the party colleagues to help you and keep you going, it must be even longer when you don’t.
Given that we are now in an age of cynicism when it’s de rigueur to assume anyone involved in politics is in it for themselves (and that working in the City or earning a high salary is as anti-social as petty crime) I cannot help but admire his determination – even if that won’t translate into my vote.
So he is directing his anti-corruption campaign against an MP without a second home? Makes sense.
Perhaps not the ideal seat in which to stand. Reading his website it would appear he feels the problem goes much further than just second homes. Of course, no Wandsworth MP, being inner London, was ever entitled to claim for a second home. Perhaps even worse that Martin Linton’s general expense claims are among the lowest in the country, although that is not necessarily a good thing – I could run an MP’s office for nothing, as long as I didn’t do anything!
It’s always going to be difficult to be an ‘anti-corruption’ candidate – I’m not sure any major party (and am pretty certain there’s no minor party) has ever stood on a pro-corruption platform. This does seem to be more of an anti-politician platform, and I’m not sure that’s a terribly healthy position to take.
Well the least woolly of his four manifesto points is:
“If our elected representatives are denied the opportunity to gain financially from their position the welfare of the nation will once more become the priority of those in government.”
I agree more with point 4 of the People’s Charter of 1838 which asked for:
“Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country.”
And in the intervening 170 years we’ve never properly addressed the MPs’ salary issue!
The expenses scandal was a result of a fudge in which salaries were increased to something more like an MP should earn, but in such a way it didn’t look like MPs were getting a massive pay increase or earning a huge salary. Of course, such a system is open to abuse and that’s exactly what happened.
If there’s one thing I like about the independent candidate, it’s that it shows democracy can work. Instead of creating more rules for MPs to follow, demanding ever lower salaries and expecting them to wear ever hairier shirts we should be paying them a decent salary (perhaps slightly reduced to account for the public service element) and then expecting them to justify themselves at the election so the electorate – not a fees office or unelected enquiry – can cast our judgment at the ballot box.