More United: Paddy Ashdown’s new political movement launched today

I’d covered previously Paddy Ashdown’s new plans for political realignment, involving launching a new cross-party political movement.

It’s called More United and is being launched today.

As the new organisation explains, the name deliberately echoes murdered MP Jo Cox’s maiden speech in Parliament in which she said, “what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

More United’s ambition

With your help, MoreUnited.uk is going to transform the way politics is funded, giving a voice to the millions of open and tolerant people in Britain who feel the political system no longer works for them.

The idea is simple. We’ll use the power of crowdfunding to raise money for any candidate from any party who supports our principles, making it easier for moderate, progressive MPs to get elected and creating a new centre of political gravity in the UK.

How More United will work

We are not a political party and we won’t stand candidates in elections. Instead we will drive change by giving financial and human resource to candidates, from all parties and none, who formally commit to support our principles.

By joining together the strength of thousands of ordinary voters, and unlocking the power of crowdfunding, we believe we can get more progressive MPs from all parties elected over time and shift the balance of Parliament away from extremism.

We are truly participative. The traditional political system no longer speaks for most people. MoreUnited.uk is going to change that by giving ordinary voters real power outside the party system. We want to empower you to create a positive and more open kind of politics.

More United’s principles

We have five fundamental beliefs that we will work towards:

– A fair, modern, efficient market based economy that closes the gap between rich and poor and supports strong public services

– A modern democracy that empowers citizens, rather than politicians

– A green economy that protects the environment and works to reverse climate change

– An open and tolerant society where diversity is celebrated in all its forms

– A United Kingdom that welcomes immigration, international co-operation and a close relationship with the EU

Those five beliefs are ones which all Liberal Democrats can sign up to, but are not drawn so tightly as to be only applicable to Lib Dems – because the intention is to build a cross-party movement. They bear close reading as there are references – such as to ‘market based economy’ and ‘welcomes immigration’ – which do also draw clear limits on who the movement might support.

The campaign’s initial convenors reinforce that cross-party point, with a strong but not overly-dominant showing for Lib Dems:

More United convenors - part 1

More United convenors - part 2

It’ll be interesting to see whether More United also tries to make use of a largely unnoticed change in election law during the 2010-15 Parliament, which was one of my 6 ways to make cross-party political deals work.

Further details on More United

More details, and the ability to sign up as a supporter, are on More United’s website and Facebook page.

Austin Rathe, who used to work at Lib Dem HQ and is one of the key organising brains behind More United has also written a piece about the new movement:

Why have we done this now?

Firstly, some context. In politics, money matters. That’s a reality that many of us (me included) don’t like, but a reality it is.
Having more money than your opponent can be decisive in a close election, so the people writing the cheques wield huge and often unaccountable power.

On the left, the Trade Unions contribute the overwhelming bulk of Labour’s money. Trade Unions are a great thing, and we need them, but having a party so totally reliable on a single source of income cannot be healthy.

On the right, most of the Conservative party’s money comes from big business, and often from the kinds of businesses that aren’t subject to much public scrutiny. Again, big business are not bad things, but having them wield so much power is not healthy.

Here’s an example. In the recent EU referendum we saw Aaron Banks write a cheque for £11m to support the leave campaign, an amount of money that
undoubtedly swung the result his way.

Once you realise who’s paying the bills, it doesn’t take long to realise why our politics is being dragged to the extremes, on all sides.

Read Austin’s piece in full here.

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