I’ve been out on the campaign trail for the Economist for well over a month now, visiting Brighton, Buckingham, Bromsgrove and Luton, among others. What’s been striking in most of those seats is the disarray of the major parties. Some voters are angry, some are apathetic, but in almost all of these places I’ve heard people say to politicians: “you’re all crooks, anyway, I’m not going to vote for any of you.”
But there are positive signs, too, in the rise of the independents and minor parties: an indication, at least, of democratic renewal. In Buckingham, where the Speaker of the Commons is fighting for his seat, five right-wing candidates are standing against him—none of them, (because of protocol), from the mainstream parties. Oddly, at least in Buckingham, the two main contenders (Nigel Farage for UKIP, and John Stevens) are both fascinated by Europe: Farage is a famously anti-European MEP, and Stevens used to be a pro-European one. I asked both of them whether they were fighting a European election on British soil. They both laughed.
Whatever the truth of that particular battle, this election might see as many as 300 independent candidates standing, if not more—a greater number than in any recent election.
Martin Bell, the former independent MP for Tatton, is right to say that while a few will triumph at the polls, many will be disappointed. But the steady rise of the Other vote is remarkable: peo…