By Sam Dale
Former Tatton MP Martin Bell has claimed independent candidates have an "unprecedented opportunity" to "change the face of politics for good".
Speaking following a launch for the Independents' Network, a group for would-be unaligned MPs, the 'man in the white suit' said he was hoping for six independent MPs on May 7th.
"This is an unusual opportunity because of the disgrace of the expenses scandal," said Mr Bell.
"I couldn't say how many are standing directly as a result of expenses but the issue has driven a number of people who wouldn't have otherwise stood.
"All is not well with the two party system and independents can benefit from that," he explained.
But the 71-year-old is not standing for election after famously defeating Neil Hamilton in Tatton at the 1997 election.
Mr Bell became the first independent MP for 50 years but was defeated by current Conservative party chairman Eric Pickles in 2001 in the constituency of Brentwood and Ongar.
And the former suggested any independents elected may have more influence in a hung or tight parliament than he did between 1997 and 2001.
"One of my regrets is that Labour had a 167 majority during my term.
"They only ever asked me how I was voting once and I had the pleasure of telling them it was none of their business," Mr Bell added.
The Independent Network is not a political party but a loose grouping of independent set up candidates to support their campaigns.
"Independents face many difficulties from funding to media coverage and these have only been exasperated by the leaders' TV debates," said Mr Bell.
"The presidential style is not good for democracy, it is important to have a handful of independent voices in parliament who answer only to their conscience."