Law change demanded after Lib Dem ‘hid membership’ from voters
Members of political parties should be forced to come clean if they are attempting to pose as an independent at elections, an MP is demanding.
The Commons will debate legislation proposed by Labour MP David Hanson after Winston Roddick, a member of the Liberal Democrat party, beat Labour's candidate to the North Wales police and crime commissioner (PCC) race.
Roddick was just 2,651 votes ahead of Tal Michael after the first round of voting, before eventually taking 56.8% of the vote after the second round.
He was listed as an independent on the ballot paper – a move many Labour politicians believe was deliberately taken to distance himself from his party's fracturing support in national opinion polls.
"It's about transparency," Hanson told politics.co.uk. "If you're going to stand as something it's an important matter of democratic principle.
"People need to know whether there's a party card behind someone who stands as independent."
Hanson has secured cross-party support for his legislation, which at this late stage of the parliamentary session is unlikely to become law. It proposes obliging any candidate who is a member of a political party to state that membership on the ballot paper and election literature.
By putting forward evidence of Labour, Conservative and BNP members standing as independents Hanson hopes to lay the groundwork for amendment in a future bill.
The back-door threat from far-right extremists is especially concerning, Hanson warned. He said the BNP's leaked membership list had included one of the councillors on his local community council officially listed as an independent.
Hanson added: "Although it will add a small amount of bureaucracy to the electoral procedure, all it's saying is if you're an independent, you are independent of party views."
Roddick had insisted he will remain "impartial" while in office and not take the "Lib Dem whip" as a PCC. The party has no whipping arrangements for PCCs as they do not vote.
The Lib Dem party said after the elections it had given its local parties the opportunity to back independents if they felt they were the "right candidate".
Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams' endorsement of Roddick in the final days of the campaign had suggested he was completely separate from her party.
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats are not putting candidates up for these elections as we don't believe in the politicisation of the police force," she had explained.
"However, I am backing Winston Roddick because, as an independent candidate, he is free from party political pressure."
Hanson's UK elected representatives (disclosure of party membership) bill will be debated this lunchtime.
Candidates seeking to cover up their true political affiliations are not exclusively a British problem. In some US states dominated by one party it is possible to stand for local elections without declaring a party loyalty simply because it is assumed the candidate's views will match those of everyone else in the area.