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There will be fewer independent MPs after this election

Whatever happened to the “expenses effect”?

In the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal, it was often casually assumed that there would be a significant increase in numbers of independent MPs in this election. But, judging by the results so far, it looks like there will be fewer, not more, independents in the next parliament.

In one of the high points of the night, Labour took its old south Wales stronghold of Blanaeu Gwent back from the independent Dai Davies. Elsewhere, Richard Taylor, who won Wyre Forest in 2001 after campaigning to keep Kidderminster Hospital open, lost his seat to the Conservatives. And, perhaps less surprisingly, the overhyped Esther Rantzen received a miserable 1,872 votes in Luton South.

Those who had naively expected that a small platoon of Martin Bells would enter parliament on a wave of revulsion for the main parties were wrong. Nor have we seen a significant increase in support for minority parties. With the exception of Caroline Lucas's historic (and much-welcome) victory in Brighton, none has made any notable gains.

The decision by so many of the worst expenses abusers to stand down may be the main reason why voters decided, against expectations, not to punish the main parties.