Who are we?
Essex Independence is an organisation for independently minded people who believe that our Councils should be run for the benefit of the people of Essex and not to consolidate the power of Westminster Political Parties.
Our vision is to free Essex from the grip of Party Politics.
Essex Independence was established to champion principled Independent Councillors across Essex who share our vision. Courageous men and women standing alone against the might of the Westminster Parties. We want the Council Chambers of Essex to echo with the sound of Independent voices again. Individuals with passion, wisdom and great ideas for their Community. People who aren't scared to say what needs to be said, or to do what needs to be done. People who have the freedom they need to represent you and always put your interests first. This is how our Democracy is meant to be.
We have codified this vision in our Constitution:
"1.4 Vision – The Party’s vision shall be to free Essex from the grip of Westminster Political Parties by empowering principled Independent representatives who will govern in their Communities best interests."
You deserve better than nodding dogs representing the Westminster Parties, most of whom would never have been elected on their own.
"A trio of Nodding Dogs", photo by David Patrick.
However the odds are stacked against Independents.
Independent Councillors are in a different league to those elected on a Party ticket, but the odds are stacked against them. The barriers are high and the system is rigged. Consequently it is now extremely hard to get elected as an Independent Councillor, and practically impossible to make it as an Independent MP.
Experience and manpower
As an Independent you have to learn and then do everything yourself, including registering as a candidate, producing campaign literature, a website, social media etc, before campaigning relentlessly to build a following from scratch. By comparison candidates standing for a Political Party get most of it done for them, and the Party already has a following who will vote for them. It is not a level playing field.
The Media encourages voting for Parties
Elections are biased in favour of the Westminster Parties by the Media, who present General Elections as a competition between Political Parties for seats. Take this presentation of the 2019 General Election results for example. Independents do not even feature in this narrative, instead being lumped together under "Other" and relegated to insignificance. It is partly a consequence of decades of this narrative that we see so few Independents elected today.
Results of the 2019 General Election, published by the BBC.
Electoral Reform rigged the system in favour of Parties
The Representation of The People Act was amended countless times in the 20th Century, increasing spending limits to unaffordable levels for Independents and allowing the wealthy Westminster Parties to buy seats at election. In Chelmsford, a Parliamentary candidate can now spend £13,500, and their Party another £30,000 (full fact). In 2015 the Conservatives spent £112,000 to win the seat in South Thanet and basically got away with it (Independent).
Our Democracy fundamentally changed in 1969 when party affiliation was added to the ballot paper. Prior to this it was clear that you voted for the person and what they stood for. The change was introduced by a Labour Government trying to cling to power after winning its first election since the War. Then Father of The House Mr Robin Turton warned prophetically that: "The most important thing is that a Member comes here representing a constituency and not a party... This proposal would strengthen the party caucus against the individual Member's representations" (Hansard). Which is exactly what has happened.
Registered Political Parties now have an advantage over Independents by getting their brand on the ballot paper in the form an emblem, party name and description (Electoral Commission). In the case of the Parties in Government and Opposition, these brands benefit from free daily advertising by the Media. Voters are now attracted to look down the right hand side for the emblem of the Party they wish to vote for before even considering the candidate. For an Independent there is nothing to find. Try it for yourself on the ballot below.
Example ballot paper, Gravesham Borough Council.
We champion principled Independents standing for election
as Councillors so they can beat the odds, get elected
and stand up for the people in their Community.
We set out to overcome all these challenges by designing a new kind of Political Party that offers the benefits of a Political Party without requiring our Candidates and Councillors to sacrifice their independence. This principle is so important to us we have codified it in our constitution, through covenants which preserve the independence of elected representatives who are members of our Party. Read more in our constitution.
A striking emblem to attract voters
Candidates for our Party benefit from our striking emblem to capture voters attention on surveying the ballot paper. We set out to design an emblem that is evocative of Essex, with the County name in capital letters, three Seaxes as per the County Crest, and the red colouring representing the flower of Essex, the Common Poppy.
As a matter of historical interest, you may be interested to know that our depiction of the Seax is based on the Seax of Beagnoth in the British Museum. Curiously the depiction on the modern County Crest more closely resembles a Saracen Scimitar than an Anglo-Saxon Seax.
See for yourself the difference this makes to voter impression on the ballot paper.
Example ballot paper with EI candidate.
We offer all the support of a mainstream Political Party
Essex Independence will support candidates standing for Essex Independence or as an Independent. To stand for Essex Independence you have to be a Member of the Party. For us to support you as an Independent, you can become an Associate of the Party. We may choose to support you outside of this, but the whole idea of Associate membership is to formalise your relationship with us so we can engage with you whilst retaining your absolute independence.
Read more about this in article 2 of our Constitution.
The support we aim to offer includes, but is not limited to:
Support with registration at elections.
A personal web page on our site.
Help with the design and production of leaflets & posters.
Use of Party promotional materials, boards, rosettes etc.
Access to electoral roll and postal voter lists.
Help with leafletting and canvassing.
Help with postal vote mail outs.
Financial support where possible.
Holding street stalls.
Access to our support network.
We will do our best to help you, subject to the resources we have available.
Preserving the independence of elected representatives
Our constitution promises to preserve the independence of elected representatives who are members Essex Independence, whatever public office they hold. In particular we promise that:
"3.1 The relationship between The Party and a Representative of The Party elected to a public body shall be such as to maintain the independence of the Representative, so that they may always act in the best interests of their constituents."
We then go on to make several covenants to achieve this in article 3 of our Constitution.
We want to make Independent politics more enjoyable
It is a lonely struggle to succeed as an Independent. Whether you decide to become a Member or an Associate of our Party, we will help you find the enthusiasm to keep going, safe in the knowledge that we will be there to help you when you need it.
When it comes to campaigning at election time, we can help you by rallying our supporters from across Essex and assembling a team to come and assist you with a leaflet drop. Imagine the prospect of leafletting a whole ward on your own, or with a couple of very dedicated friends... now think that with our help you'll be done in a morning, leaving more time to socialise afterwards. Then you can spend all the extra days you've freed up out canvassing or otherwise talking to residents and potential voters.
Even if you don't become a Member, as an Associate you will still be welcome at Branch meetings, allowing you to participate in stimulating discussion, build relationships with people, socialise and make friends. You will even be invited to our Conference, once we're big enough to have one.
Find out more about becoming an Associate, Member or Patron on our Get Involved page.
Our five principles
As a Party we need to protect our reputation. A good reputation will benefit Independents who are members of our Party and are standing for election under our banner. On the other hand a damaged reputation will hinder them. For their benefit we can't allow this to happen, or we would be undermining our own vision, which we believe is shared by all Independents. Also
to build unity in a Party you need some common goals. For independents to succeed, we need to stop fighting amongst ourselves and focus on fighting the Westminster Parties instead. Our solution to this was to devise a set of five simple principles that we can all agree on and which will help our County flourish. All that we ask of our members is to uphold these principles:
1. Putting Communities in charge
We want to empower Essex residents by supporting the election of principled Independents who will govern democratically, with wisdom and integrity, and will always put residents interests first. We want to give you the power to demand answers and have your say.
2. Providing the services our Communities need
Despite years of housing development, we’ve seen little increase in provision of Schools, Hospitals and Emergency Services whilst Councils have been stripped of the power to intervene. We will do whatever we can to ensure you can access the services you need.
3. Protecting our Countryside and Quality of Life
We will not allow Essex to become another concrete jungle, the Los Angeles of England. We will protect our Quality of Life by fighting over-development, and by supporting policies that nurture our countryside and wildlife and make nature accessible to all.
4. Restoring Community spirit
Modern life has fragmented our Communities. We want to bring our Communities together, by encouraging participation in Community events and projects, by providing the facilities for people to come together, and by incentivising support by local employers.
5. Promoting good will and traditional values
To unite our Communities we need common values, irrespective of our differences. We will promote traditional values of freedom, fairness and respect. Encouraging good will between neighbours and ‘treating others as we would wish to be treated’.