In the UK electoral system, the odds are stacked very heavily against Independent candidates.
The main parties all have the huge advantage of massive resources, paid workers, plenty of time to plan their campaigns, non-stop media coverage, TV debates, national and local advertising, wealthy donors and hordes of volunteers to support them.
Independent candidates have none of this. They have to do everything themselves.
The idea of standing as candidate in Westminster North first occurred to Nicholas on Easter Bank Holiday Monday. He spent the next 24 hours learning a bit about the composition of the constituency, and the process of standing for Parliament. He discussed the idea with his immediate family. He decided not to speak to any of the national or local organisations who are opposed to HS2, nor to any of his friends, nor to anyone in the constituency, until after the die was cast and he had irrevocably become a candidate.
He had to move quickly because the closing date for Nominations was 4.00pm on Thursday 9th April. He contacted Westminster Electoral Services at City Hall, who kindly sent through the relevant papers at 4.00pm on Tuesday 7th April. 48 hours to go, but in practice much less, because candidates are advised to get their papers checked well beforehand in case there is an error or omission.
The next step was to get ten voters in the Westminster North constituency to sign his Nomination paper. The main parties all have known supporters who can be relied upon to sign the form days before the deadline. Nicholas had to set out on the morning of Wednesday 8th April in Church Street and Little Venice Wards to try to find ten complete strangers who would be prepared to sign his Nomination paper. With very few rebuffs, he was able to get the required number of signatories within two hours and he is very grateful to those kind people who signed his form. He was also encouraged by the positive response he received to the idea that an Independent candidate should stand in Westminster North.
Just to be sure, Nicholas then emailed the draft Nomination paper to Westminster Electoral Services on the afternoon of Wednesday 8th. They kindly confirmed that the names were all valid and provided their individual Electoral Numbers.
The next step was to choose an agent. The candidates from the main parties all have agents (some of them paid) to manage their campaigns and to ensure that they comply with the very complex electoral law. Nicholas does not have a separate agent and is having to act as his own agent.
Next, Nicholas had to decide how he wanted to be described on the ballot paper. Candidates for registered political parties are allowed to have the name of their party and their party’s logo on the ballot paper. Candidates who are not representing registered political parties are only allowed a choice between being described as Independent or having no description at all. Nicholas wanted to describe himself as an Anti-HS2 candidate but had to settle for “Independent”.
Having thus completed all the forms, Nicholas went in to Westminster Electoral Services at 10.00am on Thursday 9th April and submitted his nomination, which was checked and accepted. Nominations closed at 4.00pm that day. The Statement of Persons Nominated was published at 5.00pm and Nicholas found he was one of seven candidates. He is the only Independent and his name will be at the bottom of the ballot paper.