Martin Bell in Independent Network election launch

Former independent MP Martin Bell says 'it's local people representing their constituents.'

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Ex-MP Martin Bell has launched the Independent Network's campaign for the English local elections.

The organisation is backing 450 candidates standing under their own name rather than a party banner.

Mr Bell has long campaigned for more independent MPs and councillors saying they are a "force for honest politics".

He was joined at the launch by Tom Bletsoe, 18, the UK's youngest elected politician, and Tony Eggington, its first independent elected mayor.

Mr Bell, who represented Tatton as an independent MP between 1997 and 2001 on an anti-sleaze platform, said: "It is time for the election of independents, without party baggage but with real world experience, to be a force for honest politics in local government.

"They will be answerable not to a political party but only to their constituents and their consciences. This event is a unique opportunity to meet other people who wish to stand for honest politics, and to create an alternative to party politics."

There are thousands of independent councillors around the country - but they often find it difficult to compete with better-funded rivals from the main political parties.

The Independent Network aims to given the sort of back-up, training and advice party members can normally rely on.

Cllr Bletsoe, who was at the campaign launch in North London, said: "I'm living proof that young people can get elected.

"The election campaign is a great experience where you have to learn a tool-kit of new skills, and if elected you're given the opportunity to represent your communities and have a say in how your council is run."

The Independent Network, which says it is funded by private donations from individuals, is not a political party but encourages people to run for elections, supports candidates and helps them to help each other.

Tamsin Omond, the organisation's national co-ordinator, said: "Some people would like to run for local council positions but may not know that they can, particularly without selling out to a political party."

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