This is why I'm standing as an Independent at the general election

It’s no surprise that when our established parties serve us so poorly, we seek a drastic alternative. Unconventional insurgents are upsetting political consensus all over the world

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The Independent Online

Although I'd been expecting it, the letter was still a blow. On 12 May, the Labour Party formally expelled me for a period of not less than five years. I am breaking party rules by standing myself as an independent pro-EU candidate for the Kensington constituency against the Labour Party candidate. An open and shut case. 

Six months ago, I would have been actively insulted if you had suggested that this would happen. As far as I was concerned, Independents, or those who stand for fringe minority parties were the characters described in Blackadder the Third as the "Standing at the Back Dressed Stupidly and Looking Stupid Party".

First Past the Post is unkind even to large, nationwide parties like the Greens, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats, let alone a private individual lacking Zac Goldsmith's deep pockets. I’ve always believed that if you want to achieve political change, roll up your sleeves, get involved in a party, and do the work of persuasion and debate. 

So how did I find myself here: on my own, chucked out of the Labour Party, £500 poorer having paid a deposit to become a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, and trying to juggle running an election campaign completely alone with a full time job?

Jeremy Corbyn is a big part of the problem, but not for the reasons you might think. I’ve always been of the opinion that he won his leadership fair and square, and he should be given the space to lead, not confronted by infighting by ambitious former frontbenchers affronted at being denied a leadership they somehow decided was theirs by right. I am no “Blairite” or “Red Tory”, as Momentum extremists would have it.

No, for me, it was Corbyn’s whole approach to Brexit that made it impossible for me to support Labour in this election. In failing to campaign properly for Remain, he betrayed the Labour Party he was supposed to lead. In facilitating the Government’s hard Brexit and cynical election, he has betrayed the country whose Government he is meant to hold to account.

It’s no surprise that when our established parties serve us so poorly, we seek a drastic alternative. Unconventional insurgents are upsetting political consensus all over the world. There have been positive movements, such as the election of Macron in France, the grass roots nature of the Trudeau campaign in Canada and Bernie Sanders’s attempt to gain the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

These people do not scorn democracy in favour of scapegoating and easy fixes – they love and respect the democratic process and its norms. Perhaps the best example is right here in the United Kingdom, in the personal bravery and constitutional sagacity of Gina Miller and her Best for Britain campaign.

General Election polls and projections: June 1

Following Gina Miller's example, I am asking people to think more carefully and deeply than simple loyalty to their traditional parties, who, Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat are treating the public as if their votes belong to them by divine right.

I want us to vote in favour of something positive: a roadmap out of the chaos we have now, by putting the Government to maximum scrutiny and demanding a minimum standard in negotiations. If we cannot stop Brexit, we want to maximise the rights and privileges we currently enjoy as EU citizens. That is why I am not an "anti-Brexit" candidate like my Liberal Democrat and other opponents; I am a pro-EU candidate.

Instead of promising a second referendum at the end of a rainbow, I want to deal with the reality that Article 50 has already been triggered. Much as a vote to approve or reject the deal is the ideal scenario, more important is to hold the Government, whoever they are after 8 June, against the high standard of the EU with the new arrangements they secure with our trading partners.

And so the loneliness of Labour's letter of 12 May has dissipated. I may have left the Labour Party, but I am part of a wider, national grouping, composed of people who support all political parties and none, and who voted Leave or Remain. People who truly want the best for Britain, and are determined to use the election to achieve it.

The support I have received from Labour, Liberal and Tory sympathising friends, and the time and money they have committed to me personally and to this important cause is truly moving. As we are all so far behind the Conservative and Labour frontrunners, Best for Britain is yet to choose a candidate to endorse in Kensington.

Whether I win that endorsement or the election, what I care most about is making people think very carefully about for whom they cast their vote, and a sense of a country falling back in love with democracy and its constitution will be what I take away from this election.

Peter Marshall is standing as an Independent in the constituency of Kensington

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