All General Elections seem to get focused by the national broadcast and print media on the small number of ‘main’ political parties and we are informed in a way that suggests we are taking part in a Presidential Election. We keep on being told that our votes will determine whether Corbyn or Johnson enters No 10 when in fact this is complete nonsense. Indeed the outcome from most current analysis indicates that neither of them will get an overall majority and Labour are incapable of doing so because of the impact in Scotland of the SNP. However we still get told the nonsense by the media. Presumably some residents will vote for a person they have confidence in who also happens to be a member of a political party who they also support. The challenge then emerges if that person is thrown out of the party or stands down from it, but also chooses to remain as an MP and beyond that as a candidate for the next election. My personal view was that Anne Milton in Guildford as the Minister responsible for the apprenticeship elements of the education department needed to achieve a great deal more than was the case during her time in office. However the gap in this may well have been due to other issues that were internal to the Government rather than a reflection of her own decision making. Whatever the nature of her Ministerial role, she was elected in Guildford in 2005 with a majority of 347 votes over her Liberal Democrat predecessor and in 2010 increased that majority to nearly 8,000 votes and then in 2015 to over 22,000 votes, although it did drop back to 17,000 votes in 2017. Had everything gone as expected Guildford would have been a classic location for Labour to stand down to give the Liberal Democrats a chance to beat the Tories as Labour comes third every time. This is particularly the case as the Tories have won the seat since 1868 with only three times when the Liberals have overturned this. However when in September and October Johnson acted so incompetently Anne Milton was one of the people who was thrown out of the party along with 20 other MPs. She is now standing as an Independent and one could argue that she is not that Independent, given that she has been a member of the Tory Party as an MP or Councillor for 20 years. However she has not changed her personality in the last two months and she would be as competent if re-elected as she has been since 2005. It remains to be seen how many of the 30,000 Guildford voters who voted for her in 2017 will vote for her in 2019. It may well be that if she had joined another party, her credibility would have evaporated, but as an Independent she is capable of doing all she did when she was a member of the Conservative Party apart from becoming one of their Ministers.
Here in Sussex a number of us are also in a position to choose to vote for candidates who are members of parties, or else people who are Independent and who could make first rate MPs if elected. Just as Anne Milton is only tentatively Independent, some of the Independent candidates in Sussex also have something of a party background. In Worthing West along with Peter Bottomley and Labour, Lib Dem and Green candidates, there is David Aherne who is a very experienced member of the Green Party. In East Worthing and Shoreham (and Sompting) Tim Loughton is opposed by the same group of parties plus Sophie Cook who is standing as an Independent but was the Labour Candidate in 2017 and then over in Arundel and South Downs, Nick Herbert has stood down as the MP and so the Tories have put someone forward along with the other parties mentioned and then an Independent called Robert Wheal who has been an active member of the Conservative Party for many years so like Sophie and David, the term Independent is no more accurate there than in the case of Anne Milton.
However along with these three ex party members there are six other Sussex candidates standing as Independents. Clearly finding out what they support in terms of policies and where they would collaborate if elected is vital as each of them is unique. I had the privilege of chairing a panel of Brighton and Hove candidates during the 2017 election and one of those who participated was Charlotte Sabel who stood then and is standing now for Hove. She came across as a very credible and genuinely Independent candidate and I would certainly encourage Hove voters to consider her as a good person to vote for!