There's no doubt about what the public think about politics and politicians. Not much at all, and the bit they do think is not good. The idea that members of political parties disagree, argue ferociously, and try to persuade the public that they are so much better than 'the other lot' is seen as 'posturing' or 'playing political games'. Many people like the idea that all sides work together for the common interest, setting aside their divisions. I fundamentally disagree with this proposition. There is nothing so dangerous for the people as when all political parties agree, and no-one is testing Government proposals by vigorous, even forensic examination. I'm pleased that Barack Obama's efforts to bring all sides together in support his financial stimulus has collapsed. All my instincts tell me that Obama is taking a terrible and unjustified risk with the economy of the Western world. Thank goodness that the Republicans are challenging what seems to me to be crazy levels of public spending and borrowing. I think the same about what Gordon Brown is doing.
The reason that this issue in my mind tonight is that three separate people have told me this week that they would like to vote for me at the next General Election, but cannot bring themselves to vote Conservative. Now, I may be something of a political maverick, and most of my public sector career has been as an 'Independent - but I do not believe that 'Independence' works at Westminster or at the National Assembly for Wales. It may be true that an 'Independent' can do the 'constituency work' , but cannot achieve much beyond that.
During my eight years as an Assembly Member, my most influential work was as Chairman of the 'countryside' committee. I hugely enjoyed the role, and felt that I made a bit of difference. The reason I was given that role was through my position as a Conservative. And if I were to be elected as an MP, my ambition would be to play an influential role in developing an effective relationship between the UK Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. Sure, I could make a lot of noise as an Independent - but could make a difference only as a member of a mainstream party. I 'came out' in 1996, and I'm going to stay out. Its the most effective way that I can serve Montgomeryshire, and Wales.