What are the chances of a new ‘centrist’ party being formed? Chuka Umuuna has denied that he is up for it. At the same time he has politely asked Corbie to ‘call off his dogs,’ i.e. those Labour Party members who are unhappy with Labour MPs who support the government in all but name. Chuka must believe it to be the beholden duty of all Labour Party members to support their MPs whatever they do. Actually, a good reason not to bother with non-binding no confidence motions in their MP is to avoid giving said person more of an excuse to jump ship to the Martyrs’ Progress Party. Anyway, it’s a bit rich the right-wing moaning since Blair’s camp during the 1990s had no scruples about doing whatever they could to get rid of people that upset them. I should know, since working for the party at the time I apparently earned the title ‘Blair’s enforcer’ in Leeds (according to the BBC). What goes round comes round, sometimes with the other boot on it.
Anyway, a new party? Will this emerge out of what ‘Sir' Vince ‘I knew nothing about austerity’ Cable called a new ‘moderate movement?’ (Sounds like the first stirrings after a period of constipation.) Others like to think of this beast as the ‘radical centre.’ Or the Third Way. Or triangulation. All such formulations of course accept in the main the neo-liberal narrative as its core. This pushes for “deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation.” (Guardian, 18/7/17) New Labour, which finally died with Corbyn’s election as leader was a major proponent of these approaches, albeit with an added touch of social liberalism. In the minds of the wannabe leaders of the ‘moderate movement’ the centre is a neo-liberal centre – Cable knows this, serving as he did for five years in an austerity crazed government. Perhaps the new party could be called the Neo Liberal Party, or Liberal Party for short.
Our first past the post electoral system will put paid to any new centrist party, as it did with the SDP. But beyond that, what would the new party actually stand for? Timing here is very important. For Umuuna, it would certainly be an anti-Brexit party, but unless such a party comes into existence long before the March 2019 E.U. exit date, it’s hard to see what influence it might have. Brexit is only six months away and whatever deal (or no deal) is struck is even closer. And, rather embarrassingly for new ‘centre’ party enthusiasts from Labour’s ranks, polling analysis by YouGov suggests that those electors who feel least represented by the existing parties are ‘Leavers.’
Nevertheless, if the ‘Labour is anti-semitic’ hysteria is now wearing a little thin, I suspect media talk of a Labour split will come in for a good airing. Some Labour MPs, fearing deselection may go for it, but such a new party will hardly be blessed with any new thinking or unique selling point. Or indeed, a leader with any charisma, since the only person whose name regularly crops in this context is Chuka, and he quickly dropped out the last time he was in a leadership race.