To Be or Not to Be – an Independent Candidate?

Elsewhere on this website are brief summaries of the positions of different political parties, and some personal reflections of Christians who vote for and support them.

But what of Independent candidates? As with many topics in the political arena, there are arguments both for and against.

Here we offer some initial thoughts on the pros and cons of standing as, or voting for, an Independent candidate.

National Politics

Independent candidates in national elections often focus on a single issue, or a narrow range of issues.  In this regard they are able to campaign for, and draw attention to, a strongly felt issue.  In so doing, they are aiming to influence the political agenda and to change the conversation in the public square to include those issues that matter to people in their constituencies.

The freedom and ability to challenge the status quo is an important function of the democratic process.  The willingness of Independents to shine a light on issues that might otherwise not have been considered contributes to a broadening of the national conversation.

Local Politics

One of the main reasons given by Independent candidates for participating outside the traditional political parties is that it gives them greater freedom to speak their minds, as they are not constrained by the official position of a political party.  This is undoubtedly true, but there are two counter arguments that need to be weighed carefully against this advantage:

First, a pragmatic argument: an Independent candidate has rejected the advantages of being part of an established infrastructure and support network. Political parties are able to draw on resources, financial as well as volunteers, to support a campaign and these resources may not be available to an Independent.

Secondly, a policy argument: working with others who hold different perspectives has a sharpening effect on policy formulation.  If one only discusses political issues with those who hold very similar or identical views how are the wrinkles and weaknesses in one’s own arguments identified and addressed?

To be, or not to be, an Independent

Many Christians who participate in politics and public life make a decision to join a political party, even though they don’t agree with every policy position that party takes.  For them, on balance, this is the party they believe can help bring about the change they want to see in society.

Christians in Politics believes that wherever possible, membership of a political party is not only the most effective way to bring about positive change in society, but also enables the parties themselves to be challenged on issues with which we may disagree and undoubtedly this will involve building relationships with those who may not agree with us. It also ensures that there are Christians ‘on the inside’ of politics where decisions are made. Bible characters like Joseph and Daniel were ‘on the inside’ and close enough to the leaders of nations to be asked for wisdom at key moments.

Recent church culture has encouraged single-issue lobbying more than relational participation in politics.  The aim of Christians in Politics is to reverse this trend, and wherever possible to do so via relational engagement in parties as this is where most policy and decisions are made. We recognise there are many creative and dedicated Christians working for and lobbying on a range of causes, but we would like to see more of that energy and commitment working on the inside of politics too.

But we also recognise that some Christians will want to stand as Independent candidates. For some, they will want to prophetically call out against the status quo or ’the establishment'. Others won’t want to compromise deeply held principles.  Yet others simply feel they can get more done, unhindered in their work.

We need prophetic challenge from outside politics but believe we also need to redress the balance and have Christians on the inside, ‘on the spot’ when events happen.

We honour all those who are willing to invest time and energy in the political process.