Creating new, smaller parties every time we are confronted by a major issue is a pointless, ego-driven exercise. It's time for the commentariat to move onby Steve Bloomfield / August 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
The notion of a new political party is the idea that never dies. This time it’s spurred on by James Chapman, one-time political editor of the Daily Mail and advisor to David Davis at the Department for Exiting the EU, who seems to have had something of a Damascene conversion and realised that Brexit is, in his words, going to be a “catastrophe.” Invited on to Radio 4’s Today program last Friday to talk up his wish for a new party, called the Democrats, he claimed that cabinet ministers had “been in touch” to say that agreed with him. An initial rally has been organised for next month; slogan-filled apparel is being flogged online.
Would a pro-European, anti-Brexit political party be a success? Thankfully for Chapman, he doesn’t have to guess. Instead, he can turn to the results of a real-world experiment: they’re called the Liberal Democrats. Just two months ago they won eight per cent of the vote. A new party, even one that cut and paste the Lib Dems’ remain policies, would struggle to reach such dizzying heights, unable as they would be to rely upon the residual loyalty that many Lib Dem supporters feel for their party.
Yet Chapman believes his party, which doesn’t actually exist yet—it’s just a man on a Greek island with a Twitter account and some cabinet phone numbers—has a fighting chance. So too, it seems, do many in the media who are gleefully reporting the possibility that Tory and Labour MPs alike will switch.
The press enthusiasm shouldn’t surprise us. There is a constituency in the media that believes there is a need for a new “grown-up” political party of the centre. The problem is that no two people can agree on what ‘centrism’ actually is.
In the Times earlier this year, Hugo Rifkind argued that there is a centre “struggling to form in British politics. It would draw George Osborne from one side, and Sadiq Khan from the other, with room for Nick Clegg, Yvette Cooper and others in between.” This is, with the greatest of respect to Rifkind, who is otherwise insightful on such matters, simply not true.
Khan and Osborne may both be socially liberal and pro-European, but that’s where the similarities end. Osborne was…