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Friday, 8 March 2013

The Independent Group - an oxymoron surely?

Cornwall is a land apart in many different ways.

For example we have a proud and long history of electing independent politicians. Whereas, in England, the vast majority of top tier authority councillors belong to one of the mainstream political parties, in Cornwall this is different. Following the 2009 elections, of the 123 councillors no less than 32 were 'Independent' gaining 23% of votes.

Independent Group councillors will tell you that Independents are free-thinkers not bound by party political ideology. So why are they part of a group that conducts group meetings to discuss group policy/decisions?

The only convincing argument that I have heard in favour of having an Independent Group is that it enables the administration of representation on committees and other areas that are decided in a 'proportional' way. However, to my mind, once committe seats have been allocated, and other bits of admin completed, there should be no need to conduct regular meetings?

Of course, not belonging to any 'party' means that 'independent' politicians have no collective responsibility. I wonder how many Independent councillors standing for re-election in May will be arguing for the 'good' that the current administration has done during the past four years. For, make no mistake, Independents are just as responsible for the good and bad that has come out of Cornwall Council as the Conservatives. Yet when faced with criticism it will be the Tories that get the blame and any 'individual' opposition or highlight that will be pointed out to the electorate.

Then again, is it not just a tad disingenuous (at best) for an Independent to campaign on the basis that s/he is an independent free-thinker knowing full well that once elected they will be part of a group that acts to all intents and purposes as a political party, making corporate decisions and expecting members to toe the line.

True Independents should have the guts to be 'stand alone' councillors and not seek to reap the benefits of being part of a political grouping while avoiding the responsibilities that go with it.

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