Another Sunday, another new centrist party

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…and this one’s managed to get itself the cover of the Observer.

Except, well, it’s not actually a new party is it? When I first saw the headline being shared around Twitter last night I thought there’d been some formal declaration of a new party, that as well as this story there’d be a big multiple-page interview with the founders of it that would set new records for mentions of Macron per column inch, and that there’d be some snazzy new website where you could sign up to show your support and be allowed to think you were a key part of this brand new movement that was going to change everything.

Instead we got the news that one named businessman has been talking to other people about it and the big money behind it is actually “access to up to £50m in funding” — and boy, aren’t ‘access’ and ‘up to’ doing huge amounts of work in that statement? The more you read, the more it stops feeling that someone has a detailed plan to shake up British politics, and instead starts feeling that they have a plan to develop a plan to do it, which they’re going to get to just as soon as finish telling all their friends about how good their plan is going to be.

Yet again, it seems that people with dreams of rearranging British politics from the centre are the political underpant gnomes. In step 1, they’ll found a new centrist party/movement, and by step 3 they’ll achieve power, but they continually elide what they’ll do for step 2, or just repeat ‘Macron’ as though that somehow counts as a plan. There’s also often a dismissal of ‘conventional politics’ which feels to me that someone’s willing to spend a lot money learning all the lessons about effective campaigning that people already involved in politics could tell them. This isn’t a party based on a groundswell of public support, but a top-down prescription that they think people will somehow be persuaded to go along with and accept.

And then when we come down to details, what do we find that this new party might advocate? What might be its pitch to the electorate? If they think that people are rejecting the two main parties, how will it differ from them?

By taking bits from both of them, apparently: “Potential policy proposals include asking the rich to pay a fairer share of tax, better funding for the NHS and improved social mobility. However, it also backs centre-right ideas on wealth creation and entrepreneurship, and is keen to explore tighter immigration controls.”

While this approach is a classic centrist one of seeking a consensus between the two sides of a political divide, the ‘a bit from the red column, a bit from the blue column’ approach doesn’t seem that bold to me when you’re saying that those two sides are both so unpopular and unrepresentative that you have to take a bold step and seek to break the mould. It’s like looking at a market that’s bored of Coke and Pepsi and thinking that means your new type of cola will be definitely a success, and not even considering that people might actually be looking for Irn-Bru or fruit juice.

Many, many things. PhD student at QMUL. Councillor. Ran the 2019 London Marathon for Brain Research UK. @nickjbarlow on Twitter.

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