Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish (Crossbench)
The Bill proposes that a person standing as an independent candidate is allowed to use only the word "independent". That description is extraordinarily narrow and most unfair on such people. I do not believe for one minute that the electorate become confused over Labour candidates and independent Labour candidates, or Conservative candidates and independent Conservative candidates. I do not believe that the electorate become confused at all. The issue is clear. I understand that certain playing around with names may confuse the electorate but I do not believe that adding words such as "Conservative" or "Labour" to the word "independent" confuses the electorate one little bit.
Most people who stand as independent candidates are not widely known and it is not fair that they should be restricted to only the word "independent". Some independent candidates need no other description. That was certainly the case with Dennis Canavan when he stood as an independent candidate for the Scottish Parliament and so thoroughly trounced the Labour candidate. And Mr Canavan deservedly trounced the Labour candidate because of the appalling way in which he was treated by the Labour Party. He was not even allowed back in and now he is to precipitate a by-election. I would advise Members opposite not to put their shirts on at the bookies that their party will hold on to the seat. I believe that many Labour voters in that constituency are still aggrieved by the way their party behaved towards Dennis Canavan.
He did not need to explain what he was about; "independent" was enough. He was extraordinarily well known and popular, as the final election results showed. However, most independent candidates are not. They may be being difficult, rebelling against their party or in disagreement but I do not see why their description should be narrowed down to only the word "independent". It is part and parcel of the Government's control freakery and it seems to me to inhibit the freedom of the individual. I believe that, provided the title that is used is clear, no confusion is caused. "Independent Conservative" or "Independent Labour" is perfectly clear and understood by the electorate and I see no reason for the Government to retain the restriction. In order to be fair to those people who want to exercise their democratic rights and stand for Parliament the Government should accept my amendment. I beg to move.