Saturday, 12 August 2017

All Roads Lead to the Centre

Something that I have been discussing in semi-private for several years now (some of it is publicly visible on Twitter) is the prospect of yet another political party here in Britain, in reaction to all the (both perceived and actual) polarisation of the existing parties that many are seeing as 'extremism', or at least a tendency in such a direction.

Remembering my predictions about where Labour in particular were heading ever since Ed[ward] Miliband then became their leader, and the consequent (promoted by some) rise of UKIP as the only remaining way for the broader Left to undermine the potentially huge Conservative success that they could see lasting for decades, it was clear that the public perception of the then (and current) political scene as becoming ever more divided and divisive was near-enough certain to expand greatly within a very few years.

That has now happened, exactly as a small number of us in the commentariat expected, and an even smaller number (I'd guess) publicly stated as their opinion.

Thus it is no surprise that the idea of what is claimed would be a new 'centre-left' party has been mooted for a while, and now there are actual moves being made to bring it into reality. It is an easy concept to sell to the public and, to a cautious extent, the big media.

There have been several of such proposals in recent years, including (inevitably) a specifically Labour break-away party for all those moderates (if such a beast exists) who have been and are being ousted from re-standing at the next election by Momentum, and those ousted folk's supporters. Now, just this past week, we have had James Chapman (a.k.a. Chappers) proposing in effect a coalition of those from all parties and political persuasions (or none) who are opposed to the UK leaving the European Union – which is to be a big policy feature of this new party.

In the ultimately irony, going against a democratic decision that the British people have already made – and which has strengthened in terms of leaving the EU via what some are mischievously calling a 'hard Brexit' – they are thinking of calling themselves 'The Democrats'. I suppose that is at least consistent with what already exists on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean: a party called 'Democrats' that is anything but.

Thus we know from the outset that it is a deception, and no doubt will become as malign a political force as those other 'Democrats' once the brand has been established, initially seemingly benign and well-intentioned but soon shifting gears to where it is probably even now planned to ultimately sit in the political panorama.

It has been noted that the two main founders of this new party have shifted their own positions to further their own careers. Now, I don't have any fine details on their personal histories, but anyone who feels so inclined (I don't, this time) can easily check – especially on Brexit.

Meanwhile, we do of course still have the Liberal Democrats, who fit into this exact slot: centre-left, anti-Brexit. Why create a new party when one such already exists? Not that it is exactly doing well – but that tells me that any party with that approach will now lose out, so it is hardly worth creating a near-copycat new one. It isn't as if the Lib Dems are as toxic a brand as they once were because of their coalition with the Conservatives in government earlier this decade: that is now essentially history. Indeed, their pluses (such as they are) significantly outweigh their negatives.

A new party comes into the arena as an unknown, and it takes many years to establish themselves, especially if they do not even have established elected members as its founders. The public simply will not trust them, although I'd expect an initial 'honeymoon' period that will give a misleading indication of popularity.

If this new party goes ahead, especially with its proposed somewhat pretentious title, I'd expect it to face a real test once it has to put out a real election manifesto and then defend that to the public, including via the media. We have already witnessed how unforgiving that process can be, and I cannot see the new venture becoming any more than, say, another Respect or Veritas, though not in quite the same form as those always were 'cult of personality' pseudo-parties.

So was UKIP under Farage, of course – but that party was being bigged-up by those who saw it as the only way to stop the Conservatives after the obviously useless Ed Miliband became Labour leader. There will be no such incentive for those manipulators to support or promote the new venture.

It will probably die or be absorbed into one of the fringe parties after a few years, much as Veritas merged with the English Democrats some months ago. Near-enough no-one will miss it…

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