Saturday 24 January 2015

Why am I standing for Westminster?

Why should principled independent candidates bother standing for General Elections? It is a good question. It begs other questions. Why change things? Why try to represent people in a different way? How can you get your message across? What is so wrong with the party system?

There are and always have been good representative politicians who give good service to their constituents, regardless of the banners under which they were elected. They work quietly, rarely gain promotion, and just do the job for the people in their area.

 However, the rise of personality politics means that the UK now resembles the USA with powerful figureheads.The  need for fanatically loyal troops for these generals effectively persuade and bully their elected members to vote for party irrespective of the local needs of their voters. Once elected, the leadership is from the top down, and not the bottom up. The electorate are very much forgotten until the next election looms.

The argument most people put to me against me standing is that independent MP's have little power and./or spoil the game for the big parties who need this seat to establish their own power in London.

Radical Independent politicians are not powerless. Not only do they have total focus on those who chose them but they also have the same access to the civil service and information as other members. This, combined with the freedom to speak for your voters, is no mean thing and I would argue that as a Councillor I have done as much, if not more for those who elected me, unfettered by having to ask permission from a party body if anything I need to do deviates from their policy or leadership outlook. Sometimes finding out exactly what is going on in Carmarthenshire takes a lot of research and information requests, usually because the facts are being deliberately hidden.

When I was in a party, when first elected as a Councillor, I was told what to do and restricted, for instance removed from a  post  on the the Community Health  Council  by Plaid who were pressurised by the Hywel Dda Health Board, my former employers, who had no right to dictate the matter. Plaid  even "resigned " me without my knowledge.  This is what parties do. It very soon became apparent that the people of my ward were also only pawns in the game. I was elected on the back  of campaigns to stop the flood plain development at Stradey Park. Despite the support of local Plaid members and Councilllors, the county Organisation decided that funding Rugby was more important than preventing flooding and in Planning Committee supported building the new homes on raised islands, risking displacing water into the existing homes which are prone to flooding already. Providing funding for the Scarlets was more important than the lives and livelihoods of those who had trusted me to protect them. I was off, and looking for a better deal!

Parties are one way to increase your power in theory, but reduces your choices as a representative. You may get a favour for your area, you may not. You may rise through the ranks and get a little more money and influence.The reality is most elected politicians are back benchers promised sweeteners for towing the line and threatened if they don't. They are team players and restricted by the rules of the game.  They are as likely to be asked to take a hit, as the Hengoed ward was, as to get a benefit. In People First your representatives take on your colours and aspirations and selflessly represent you. That's why we must keep open minds, every electorate is different, every issue to be taken on its merits.

Others ask me about what happens if there are large numbers of real Independents like People First?
The answer is that if you want their support, you have to persuade each and every one on that particular point. There is no block deal , no enforcers. We don't take a whip, we don't form parties, we don't necessarily agree with each other but we  all need to consult our local people. Its much more work to get an informed opinion based on hearing and passing on the arguments to the punters for decisions on big issues, but it is actually doing the job properly. A party manifesto is a blunt instrument and in rapidly changing times, may become a poor instrument for government and you, as a citizen, can end up with no influence at all.

If there were a large group or  majority of members in an elected institution who were PF or similar we would work it out. Where there needed to be leaders, ministers, cabinets we would be obliged to offer the whole issue to our communities and you might see hopeful candidates, both independent and party presenting themselves to every voter, for instance in open primaries. No democracy is perfect but this one could be a lot better!

Occasionally there are literally "on the spot" decisions which we all have to make on the basis of our knowledge of our electorate and our life experience. In politics, they are few, and we make them carefully as we have full responsibility. As our power comes from the people we pledge to use it only for them and entirely on their behalf.

Our democracy is so sick that actually having a group which seeks to encourage real representation at all levels of government is seen as a threat. I am standing because this idea, represented by People First / Gwerin gyntaf,  is important, needs promoting, and the people of Llanelli deserve the best. All of us should be first in the minds and actions of our representatives.

Sian Caiach

1 comment:

  1. Sian, I salute you and wish you the very best of luck. Unfortunately I do not live in your ward and will therefore not be able to vote for you but I urge everyone who can vote for you to do so. Voters, you will never have a better representative than Sian.


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