The BBC has a clip of the Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, during the 1950 election campaign, about to go into a large public meeting and stopped by a BBC television reporter who asks him, “What would you like to say to the British people, Mr Attlee”. Attlee, who would never use two words when one would do, says, “Nothing” and passes on into the meeting. In 2010 Gordon Brown would not even have got such a friendly question from the media, let alone have failed to answer it.
The whole character of elections has changed over this period and Britain has changed from a two party to a multi-party system.
Elections and Parliaments are dominated by Political Parties. There are hardly any Independent MPs across European countries, or even in other parts of the world.
Only four Independent MPs have been elected to Westminster in the last 30 years:-
Martin Bell in Tatton in 1997
Bell stood against the Conservative, Neil Hamilton, mired in a scandal over alleged payments for asking questions in Parliament, and Labour and the Liberal Democrats gave him a clear run in the constituency. He did not stand again in 2001.
Dr Richard Taylor in Wyre Forest in 2001 and 2005.
- Taylor stood on the issue of opposing the closure of the local hospital casualty unit and had supporters who also stood for the local council. He was not opposed by the Liberal Democrats in either election but lost to the Conservatives in 2010 when they decided to stand.
- Peter Law in Blaenau Gwent in 2005.
- Law had been the Labour Welsh Assembly Member and opposed the national party’s decision to require the Constituency Labour Party to select their candidate from an all-women shortlist. He died in 2006 and his agent, Dai Davies, won the subsequent by-election but lost to Labour in 2010.
In local elections Independents are more successful and about 9% of Councillors (excluding Parish and Town Councils)are not linked to any national political party with the proportion increasing in recent years.