Political

United for Change: the latest (and richest) new centre party surfaces

There has been much talk of new political parties, even quite a few launches but so far almost no discernible impact. Vince Cable has even turned down an offer to lead one.

The closest to a serious runner, or at least the best funded, has put its head above the online parapet today with the launch of United for Change at www.unitedforchange.uk, complete with natty logo and a NationBuilder campaign platform.

It is, Ross Hawkins at the BBC reports, the new party that Lovefilm founder Simon Franks has been backing. The Observer previously reported:

A new political party with access to up to £50m in funding has been secretly under development for more than a year by a network of entrepreneurs, philanthropists and donors keen to “break the Westminster mould”…

Sources say the project, led by the multi-millionaire philanthropist and founder of LoveFilm, Simon Franks, has had full-time staff members for as long as a year. Initial discussions are said to have begun at the end of 2016. Franks has set up a company, Project One Movement for the UK, which is likely to be the vehicle for the enterprise.

That was back in April, which makes this launch a very long time coming, but still without a clear political leader. They have, however, acquired a spoof Twitter account, @projectonemove. (Update: and a second spoof, @UKunited4change.)

The strategy of United for Change is rather different from the usual model for successful new party launches: leaders first then create mass movement behind them. That was the En Marche model in France, for example: Macron, then a party. Likewise further back in the UK, the SDP: the Gang of Four, then a party. In this case, United for Change want to create a movement first, hoping that its existence will lure MPs and others to it, giving them the safety net to jump from their current political homes. (It is also a strategy somewhat forced by circumstances as in the long run-up to the launch, there’s not been an aversion to try to lure big names over first.)

Prior to today’s launch, the site had a page (now removed but cached online) which set out some political views:

Britain has the brains and the innovative spirit to overcome its problems, but in order to do so we need to get our best minds out front leading, creating policies on the back of evidence and research that deliver long-term, workable solutions to the issues we face.

The change we need is not just about policy, it’s about something deeper. Whether it’s tax evasion, benefits fraud, politicians fiddling their expenses, banks behaving recklessly or business leaders risking employees’ pensions, the spirit of responsibility to each other which enabled our greatest national achievements has been eroded. When we see people getting away with this kind of behaviour, particularly those at the top of society, and then see nurses who care for us forced to use food banks, soldiers who have risked everything to protect our families living on the streets, children going to school each day breathing in toxic fumes and young people facing a less secure future than their parents, we all know that something is going badly wrong. Our social contract, the deal establishing our responsibilities to each another and to future generations, has been dangerously undermined.

This is why we are working together to build a new social contract for Britain.

The first stage of our plan is to address all the big questions which politicians have swept under the carpet for too long. From immigration to the future of social care funding, there is no issue that we will hide from.

What’s notably absent, so far at least, is anything more in the way of a philosophy for the party aside from ‘we should all be nice and sensible’. Those are admirable but they lack a key factor: how to make a choice. Evidence can get you a long way but in the end you do need to make choices based on your values and your view of a good society.

It does, however, up the pressure on the Liberal Democrats to strengthen the party’s own recovery: the further and faster the Lib Dem recovery, the more likely that any political reconfigurations are likely to happen with the Lib Dems shaping and benefiting from them rather than being frustrated by-standers. Hence Vince Cable’s emphasis on the party’s need to change and the new party slogan.

The next Liberal Democrat Newswire will look at that slogan in more detail, including the wider changes to the party’s messaging and approach to policy behind it. You can sign up to receive it here.

P.S. Here is the easiest way to set up a new pro-European centrist political party.

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