This isn't "Corbynism without Corbyn" or Conservatism without the ERG. But it's not clear what it is, eitherby Chaminda Jayanetti / February 20, 2019 / Leave a comment
Having failed to break up with their party on Valentine’s Day—and on many other days before—this week Corbynsceptic MPs finally signed the divorce papers, walked out of the family home and into a cauldron of television cameras.
What this does or doesn’t mean will not be clear this week or next. The immediate fallout—crossfire and torrents of relief; despair and abuse—say nothing about the fundamental prospects of the new grouping, or whether it can develop into a party.
What is it that has been born, this lovechild of mutual hate? The Independent Group (TIG) is deliberately vague in every sense: its name means nothing beyond an absence of greater definition; it has settled on vague worldviews rather than specific policies, knowing that in the early stages of a new relationship it’s best not to talk about marriage or who’ll take out the bins.
But, despite now being joined by three former Conservative MPs, most of TIG’s statement of values resembles those of New Labour: strong national security, sound public finances, funding services from the proceeds of growth, equality of opportunity over result, and a contribution-based view of society that suggests a belief in benefits conditionality.
“Corbynism without Corbyn” this is not.
By avoiding firm policy positions at this stage, TIG has avoided early divisions and left the door open for others to enter.
But eventually they will need policies—and that’s where the trouble will come.
For all that people are desperate for a moderate-sounding party that lacks the toxicity of both the Labour and Conservative fringes, aspects of those fringes do have public appeal; otherwise, politics wouldn’t be where it is today.
What appeals to the public now is far more contradictory than in 1997. Electoral ‘toxicity’ doesn’t just stem from bigotry; it comes from policy positions of all kinds, with different groups of voters choking on different aspects. The electoral compass of Britain is daubed with enough red lines to make Jackson Pollock blush.
Whilst TIG’s founding statement is not explicit on Brexit—realising, perhaps, that come the next election it may not be in a position to undo what has been done—the new grouping is clearly not going to target pro-Brexit voters.
As for anti-Brexit voters: how many…