It feels like hardly a month goes by without a new centrist party forming and then quietly disappearing into insignificance. On 8 April, The Guardian published a scoop about a potential centrist party that’s been in the works for over a year. The initiative is the brainchild of LoveFilm founder Simon Franks and it’s already secured over £50 million in funding.
Twitter users were unimpressed. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell perfectly summed up why:
That’s a novel idea. A party of the rich, by the rIch, for the rich. A party for the few not the many. https://t.co/nZIvkbkdGj
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) April 7, 2018
Big funding, small details
The group has a wealthy donor base formed of business figures and philanthropists, but details on actual policy platforms are scarce. It’s still unclear whether the group will form an actual party or just focus on activism. But The Guardian has revealed a few of their policies:
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… its policy platform appears to be aimed mainly at a liberal, centre-left audience. 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.
That the new party has raised such a large sum of money from wealthy donors in the absence of any clear manifesto was particularly galling to some:
If you’re talking about how much money you have to spend rather than your values then you’re missing the point of being in politics https://t.co/cgCoQLgur7
— Justin Madders MP (@justinmadders) April 7, 2018
Policies for new party will be chosen by “one million – one vote” system https://t.co/xDUSxjDt2L
— Solomon Hughes (@SolHughesWriter) April 7, 2018
Another week, another centrist party
Others pointed out the inconvenient truth about centrism in the United Kingdom. Namely that it currently holds little appeal to the voting public:
— Nick Srnicek (@n_srnck) April 7, 2018
Scene 4: After year-long negotiations chaired by John Chilcot, a report is published 3 years later codifying a deal with Jeremy Cliffe’s “Renew”. It won’t run against the new centrist party in exchange for a lifetime of free LoveFilm
Scene 5: It’s 2022 and Labour win a majority
— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) April 7, 2018
— heartbeeps (@hrtbps) April 7, 2018
Many politicians and pundits saw the initiative for what it really is, a desperate move by the establishment to retain the status quo:
What you see here is an establishment reboot job. With the Tories on self-destruct mode and Labour at last offering a radical alternative to neoliberalism – this group wants a re boot and rebrand for a failed ideology.RT if you’re done with neoliberal-litehttps://t.co/Haj0M3gqha
— Clive Lewis (@labourlewis) April 7, 2018
New party gets £50m backing to ‘break mould’ of UK politics https://t.co/zQrCS8aNSW
Memo to new party
Macron succeeded because French Socialists moved too far right
People want real change – hey, Corbyn's Labour got 40%
Your "non-politics" sounds like just supporting status quo
— Tom London (@TomLondon6) April 8, 2018
A group of multimillionaires funding politics as their plaything seems to me quite the opposite of 'breaking the mould' of British political life. https://t.co/k8KJJhQaH0
— James B (@piercepenniless) April 7, 2018
What’s in a name?
Of course, every new centrist party needs a name. Radicals UK, Renew, the Centrist Party, and the Liberal Democrats are already taken, so here are some helpful suggestions:
I'm stuck between Nomentum or Centrists Unite Now Together, but the latter doesn't abbreviate very well. #NameTheNewPoliticalParty
— Rachael Swindon #GTTO (@Rachael_Swindon) April 8, 2018
Surely the already suggested One-Percenterist Party is a clear winner but I'd like to suggest the following chant,
'What do we want?'
'The status quo!'
'When do we want it?'
'We've already got it but 50m would be nice'#crapchants#NameTheNewPoliticalParty
— Tom McElveen (@tom_mcelveen) April 8, 2018
The very definition of redundant
There’s already an established centrist party in the United Kingdom – the Liberal Democrats. And despite running on a pro-remain, economic liberal platform, they only managed to retain four seats in the 2017 general election. The success of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile suggests the voting public has no love for the status quo and are ready for truly progressive policies.
All that a new centre-left party would likely achieve is a further split of the progressive vote. Any aspiring centrist groups disregard these truths at their peril, and risk handing the next election to the Conservative Party.
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