Sunday, April 19, 2020

Looking back at Change UK a year on

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As Tim Adams reminds us in the Observe, a year ago Britain boasted a new centre party.

It kept changing its name, but it will probably go down in history as Change UK - if history bothers to remember it at all.

The group was launched in February 2019, when seven MPs left the Labour Party and I wrote:
It is hard to see much hope in the statement of values their Independent Group has published. It is hard to imagine anyone reading it and thinking: "At last someone has put into words what I have been feeling all these years." 
Rather than the launch of a new movement, I see seven individuals who have succumbed to the hard left's perennial tactic of making life so unpleasant for those who oppose them that they eventually walk away from the fight.
The Tories who joined shortly afterwards seemed to be having more fun, but I think I was right.

Perhaps because they had made their careers in the Labour Party, which had plenty of safe seats, the seven did not appear to have the stomach for a fight.

If you doubt me, read Gavin Shuker's explanation of why the new party declined to join others in endorsing a single Remain candidate in the June 2019 Peterborough by-election:
"We all agreed to stand down any candidates we might field in favour of a genuinely independent, pro-People’s Vote and pro-Remain candidate who had expressed an interest and intention to stand. 
"However, senior Labour figures, including senior figures campaigning for a People’s Vote, made it clear that they would strenuously disrupt the campaign and obstruct an independent Candidate, driven by fears that it would harm their party in Peterborough." 
But there was one thing the new party could have done to make an impact.

Its statement of values, as far as I can recall (the link in my original post no longer works), assumed that Brexit was bound to take place and made vague statements about what the world should look like afterwards.

But what Change UK should have done was call itself Remain or The Remain Party.

That would have given them a clear identity and quite possibly put them ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls.

I don't think it would have brought them any seats in the December 2019 general election, but it would have caused us huge problems.

The moral is that a new centre party needs a clear appeal to the voters and to offer something the Lib Dems don't. Change UK failed to do either.

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