Will today be ‘Independents Day’ once more?
9:43am Thursday 3rd May 2012 in News
Will (today) May 3rd 2012 be ‘Independents Day’ in Pembrokeshire once again?
In 2008 more independent candidates were elected nationally than those from a single political party and Pembrokeshire reflected this trend.
Independent candidates – many of whom later joined the Independent Group – strengthened their grip on the council.
In today’s election there are 39 candidates in Pembrokeshire described as independent and 35 who give no description on the ballot paper. But how can voters know if a candidate plans to join the Independent Group or remain unaffiliated to any group?
In an advert in this week's Western Telegraph Milford Haven councillor and cabinet member Anne Hughes refers to voters asking if a candidate is a ‘true independent’.
But then as a Independent Group member, is Cllr Hughes a ‘true independent’?
Cllr Hughes told the Western Telegraph that despite being in a group she was an individual in that group and free to voice her own opinion and stand up for her constituents.
“I have a choice on what I want to do, there are no restrictions on my decisions. I’m looking for the best for my community and my ward – my choices are purely on that and are not restricted in any way.
“We call ourselves a political group but there is no manifesto, no demands on us to conform or consider the group, we are all individuals in that group and don’t have to abide by any restriction or rulings, the choice is ours.”
Phil Baker, councillor for Saundersfoot, is seeking re-election and also calls himself “truly independent”
in his election advert. However, he is currently not affiliated with any group on the council.
Another Independent Group member campaigning as “truly independent”
is Narberth’s Wynne Evans, who said: “I am truly independent. If you look back on my track record I actually vote the way I want to vote, there is no instruction and no party whip. I always vote for what I think the people of Pembrokeshire want.
“As for being a member of a group, I feel I can carry more weight when fighting for issues in my town. I’m my own man within a group. I always say I’m a county councillor for Narberth and Pembrokeshire, Narberth first and then Pembrokeshire. My ward is my priority.”
The Electoral Commission recognises there is a “potential for confusion”
among voters over the independent issue. The Commission said it received comments from candidates, representatives of political parties and members of the public about campaigning by independents around the country.
“While the Electoral Commission is required to monitor the compliance of election candidates with the rules on campaign spending, it does not fall within our remit to comment on the organisation of any group’s campaigning techniques.
“However we do recognise that there is a potential for confusion amongst the electorate as to the position of an independent candidate during an election period. It is therefore of critical importance that the candidate is aware of his/her responsibility to ensure that their position is made as clear as possible to voters as part of any campaign,” an Electoral Commission spokesman added.