New party splits before it is launched: Twelve Together splits off from United for Change

It’s not even launched yet but already the latest (and richest) attempt at forming a new centre pro-European political party, United for Change, has split:

United for Change was set up by LoveFilm founder and entrepreneur Simon Franks, and is reported to have secured more than £50m in funding.

But the fledgling organisation’s chief executive, Adam Knight, told the Times he had now left the team along with some of its staff to set up a new group.

He said that while United for Change shared the “same diagnosis” as his new outfit, dubbed Twelve Together after the number of UK regions, party chiefs had disagreed over strategy. [PoliticsHome, reporting on the scoop from The Times]

It’s almost as if they’re taking the wrong lesson from the long-running internal conflicts in the Alliance in the 1980s. The Alliance was the closest we’ve got to a seriously successful new pro-European, neither left nor right, political force in the UK.

The deep personal splits an internal infighting which culminated in the near-death experience of 1988-89 are, however, a bit to avoid rather than a bit to copy.

They are also one of the reasons why I’m sceptical about the ability of a new party to prosper. A successful new party needs to build a coalition of support. Yet the attempts so far are often born of circumstances which suggest the complete opposite, with founders viewing the Lib Dems as beyond the pale for them. That suggests a narrowness of tolerance for varying political viewpoints that will end up sinking the new approaches, a point which Nick Barlow has previously made too. (A point also reinforced by similar internal fallouts at Renew, another of the new centre parties.)

It is why I think the best route is for the Liberal Democrats to grow and broaden into a political movement which can win over the many liberals who share our values but do not currently think of themselves as Liberal Democrats. More on how to do that here.