Representatives from the YES and NO campaigns for electoral reform will debate the question: "Should independent candidates and their supporters support the yes campaign, the no campaign or abstain by spoiling their ballots, not voting or writing something else on their referendum paper?" on Thursday 7th April at 16:00 in the Pleasance Theatre, Caledonian Road, London, N7 9EF.

The Martin Bell backed Independent Network will host Dr Lee Rotherham, a campaigner for No2AV and Deborah Grayson, from Yes to Fairer Votes as they debate electoral reform before an audience of independent councillors and their supporters. The debate will be chaired by Brian Ahearne, Director of the Independent Network.  

Brian Ahearne said:  “This is an important debate to win.  Thousands of independent local election candidates and their supporters are knocking on doors and talking to residents.  If either side of the debate is able to persuade these independently-minded politicians to support their campaign they will have gained themselves important regional allies.”

Lee Rotherham, campaigner for NO2AV said: "The AV referendum is only a few weeks away. Well done to the Independent Network for arranging what is a key debate.

“As someone who started out working for an MP who resigned the party whip on a matter of principle, I'm strongly aware of the importance of the free thinkers in politics. So I'm delighted to have this opportunity to persuade independent councillors that the system on which they have been elected - first past the post - is a far better electoral system for the country than the flawed alternative today on offer."

Deborah Grayson, campaigner for Yes to Fairer Votes, said: "The Alternative Vote system is good for Independent candidates because people can actually vote for the person they want, rather than just making a tactical decision about who they think can win. I campaigned for an independent candidate in the general election last year, and it was really frustrating that the conversation so often came down to 'who can win here?' rather than 'what are the issues that are affecting you?’ MPs will also have to work harder as they'll need to reach out beyond their party base to get support from 50% of the electorate. Independent candidates work hard for every vote - it's about time that candidates from the main parties did, too."

- Ends -

Notes to Editors:

Event location: Pleasance Theatre, Carpenter's Mews, North Road, London, N7 9EF

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The Bell Principles require that all endorsed independent candidates:

•abide wholeheartedly by the spirit and letter of the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by Lord Nolan in 1995: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership

•be guided by considered evidence, their real world experience and expertise, their constituencies and their consciences

•be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip

•be non-discriminatory, ethical and committed to pluralism.

•make decisions transparently and openly at every stage and level of the political process, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based

•listen, consulting their communities constantly and innovatively

•treat political opponents with courtesy and respect, challenging them when they believe they are wrong, and agreeing with them when they believe they are right

•resist abuses of power and patronage and promote democracy at every level

•work with other elected independents as a Group with a chosen spokesperson

•claim expenses, salaries and compensation openly so the public can judge the value for money of their activities.