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Single Issue candidates

Jim Jepps

Traditionally single issue candidates have been able to muster some support but have rarely been able to break through into a more serious figure.

The two obvious examples of winners from recent times are

Dr Richard Taylor Wyre Forest Independent Kidderminster Health Care Concern Martin Bell Tatton White Suit Independent

What is often forgotten about these candidates is that in the case of Wyre Forest the lib dems stood down in favour of Taylor and in Tatton both the other major parties stood down, this lent a lot of extra weight to both these campaigns.

The strength of the single issue candidate is that they often chime in with people's concerns over a specific local / national problem. Often they are candidates closely associated with the issue in some way (for example Reg Keys and rose gentle) which makes them more easily recognisable and people are clearer about who they are and why they are standing.

This strength is also its drawback because people can see the single issue candidate as having nothing to say on the other issues. what did martin bell have to say about renewable energy? Richard Taylor about asylum seekers? and it can be difficult to overcome the impression of being a one trick pony.

Sometimes the candidate may only be standing on one issue but it resonates with the wider issues. Martin Bell formerly was a "I hate Neil Hamilton" candidate it was far more resonant of the general feeling that the Tories were corrupt, sleazy, and unprincipled as a government and people wanted a change from that.

This means that candidates like Reg Keys and Craig Murray need to capitalise on the impact their high profile candidature makes but also use the issue of the war to connect with people's feelings on how trustworthy Blair is - and Uzbekistan with the idea of an ethical foreign policy and the feeling that jack straw is a sidelined and ineffective foreign secretary.

More usually single issue candidates have an impact on highlighting an issue and possibly influencing policy without actually coming close to getting elected. At this election there are a number of legalise cannabis candidates for example. None of these candidates are likely to even get their deposit back, but they do generate general talk among the population and highlight the campaign for more liberal drug laws.

Even the Greens were once seen as a single issue party and with relentless plugging away have ensured (with other green campaigners of course) that environmental issues are now part of main stream politics with every party touting its green credentials (or trying to). Electorally this could have been a disaster for the Greens, undercutting the need for their organisation but the Greens successfully pulled themselves out of their image of a one issue organisation and have remodelled themselves as a broader progressive party - and because the parties now all recognise the environment as an issue (whether they do anything about this or not) they have legitimised the Greens as a party who talk about real problems.

On the right UKIP are a single issue group who have been able to muster quite impressive support considering they are going for the core vote of the Tory party. Ironically it is the Euro elections where they are strongest partly because of the electoral system, but most importantly because voters see the EU as UKIP's issue and might not see the relevance in voting for them for any other body. This is ironic because UKIP MEPs are pointless - it is only in the house of commons that they might be able to make a difference on this issue.

The new party Veritas is going for a sub group of the UKIP subgroup and are very unlikely to do well. This is mainly because no one has any idea of what they stand for apart from the identical issues that UKIP stand for, only more grumpy. For a single issue party to do well it must have a clear focus and simply having an ex-Tv presenter as leader is unlikely to make much difference, after all UKIP have Rusty Lee.

May 2005


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