A new centrist party?

With little political news over the Summer the media have entertained themselves with talk of new political parties. I have awaited the first poll to ask how people would vote if there was such a party with some trepidation. thus far it hasn’t turned up. Depending on how it is worded a poll question could either suggest triumph or disaster for such a venture. Either case should be ignored – polls asking about how people would vote in hypothetical situations aren’t particularly useful.

Back before the election YouGov asked a couple of questions asking how people would vote if the Labour party split into a centrist party and a Corbynite Labour party. That found Labour voters splitting fairly evenly between the two parties, with little impact elsewhere (a result that under FPTP would likely have delivered a Tory landslide). Of course that was a new party explicitly framed as a split within Labour. It it had been presented as a split from the Tory party, I expect it would have taken most support from them. A new party might actually seek to present itself as being made up of the centrists within both Labour and the Conservatives (though more important is how it would be seen by the public – how a party describes itself is not necessarily the same as how the public sees it), in which case it would have ambitions to take support from a wider pool.

As an explicit anti-Brexit party the first place to look for what support an anti-Brexit might receive is the EU referendum vote. 48% of people who voted in 2016 wanted to Remain. In more recent polls that group splits pretty evenly between Remainers who still think Brexit is a bad idea but that it should go ahead now the people have spoken, and Remainers who think that Brexit should be resisted and overturned. Some have suggested that this means the pool an anti-Brexit party is fishing in is only about 25%. I’d be less sure – at the moment we’re in a political situation where the political class has largely accepted the principle of Brexit and is arguing about the form it will take. Were that to be shaken up, were there a significant political force arguing for changing our minds, perhaps more of those who voted Remain would see it as something to be fought rather than accepted. Who knows?

A more negative consideration is what one thinks a new anti-Brexit party could offer that the Liberal Democrats aren’t already offering. Normally when there is speculation about new political parties it’s because there is a chunk of the electorate who support a political viewpoint that no party is representing – UKIP wanted to leave the EU when no other party did, the Greens offered an emphasis on the environment and anti-austerity that the other parties weren’t. We don’t have to ask hypothetical polling questions about how people would vote if there was a centrist, liberal, pro-European party standing…we already have a perfectly serviceable party of that description and they got 8% of the vote at the general election.

Ah, you might say, but this new party wouldn’t have the baggage of coalition that the Lib Dems have. Or it would have a better known and more substantial leader than Tim Farron. That may or may not be true, depending on who ended up being involved -serious political figures like Tony Blair or George Osborne would bring their own baggage. On the other hand, a new party wouldn’t have the local government or organisational base that the Liberal Democrats do.

The real difference between a new anti-Brexit party and the Liberal Democrats would be the political context and narrative. It is this that makes it impossible to predict from polling how any such party would do. If a party was set up by a couple of whohe’s it would likely sink without trace – if one looks through the register of political parties at the Electoral Commission you’ll find several new parties set up as pro-EU vehicles, and that none have had any impact. In contrast were twenty Conservative MPs and twenty Labour MPs to defect and form a new party, it would create a huge media buzz, there would be a lot of fuss and attention (needless to say, it would also deprive the government of a majority) and that would give it the potential to get a fair amount of support.

In judging these sort of hypothetical questions, I always look back to the polls we used to see in the final months of the Blair government, asking people how they would vote if Gordon Brown was leader. They would invariably show that Labour would perform less well under Gordon Brown. In the fullness of time Brown did take over, and Labour shot into a double digit lead as all the newspapers treated Brown like the second coming. The problem with those pre-Brown polls was that people couldn’t predict that wave of excitement and positive media coverage, couldn’t predict how they would react to it. Given the right people and media coverage, a new party could succeed to some degree (certainly the currently arithmetic in the Commons would make it comparatively easy for a party with Conservative defectors within it to make an impact). Whether it could be successful enough to actually retain or win seats and have a long term future is an entirely different matter – FPTP does not forgive smaller parties without concentrated support, the anti-Conservative vote is already split and the most pro-remain areas tend to be held by Labour.

In short, it could work in terms of upsetting the current narrative if not necessarily in electoral terms… or it could fall flat, but treat any polling questions asking how you would vote if X party existed with a huge pinch of salt. Without the context of the people involved and the political narrative around it, they simply aren’t good predictors.


699 Responses to “A new centrist party?”

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  1. I dont know which is more exciting. To post “new thread” on the old thread or be first on a new thread.

  2. An interesting post on opinion in the English (or even in E&W?) polity.

    Of course, elsewhere in the UK, things are/were rather different.

  3. Just reverting back to this Buzzfeed report the data was collected just after May called the General Election. This is hardly current and still hasn’t received peer review.

    Refer to dusty bin.

  4. Mike Pearce

    Good point. I’d just like to add there are interesting surveys from the 1970s too!

    Buzzfeed may see itself as “alternative media” but it seems to have the same propensity to publish irrelevant/inaccurate stuff as “news”, as the MSM does when they salivate over some press release from their chosen messiahs, instead of being bothered to check for little things like date, accuracy etc.

  5. The SDP made a big splash and together with the liberals could have won an election or at least upturned politics if it hadn’t been for the Falklands war, but those were different times. It’s a great shame that the SDP weren’t successful then, if they had been we wouldn’t need Corbyn now.

  6. When that Buzzfeed report was highlighted on her, I commented that it would be useful to know who had leaked it – and why?

    It now seems clear that the leaking was done by one (or more) of the authors, but doing so may have destroyed his/their reputation as a credible academic.

    What would have been a useful retrospective on opinion in May has now been effectively trashed.

    If the author(s) chose to reveal their research in this way, there has to be doubt about any political motivation they had – and consequently any implicit or explicit bias in their research methodology.

    Unless they are “very good friends” with the peers who are reviewing the article, then I suspect that the peer reviewers will be keen to distance themselves from suspicion!

  7. Buzzfeed.

    Phew that is a relief. For a moment there the consensus amongst remainer posters seemed under threat. But no- sanity has prevailed. the Survey has been looked at and found wanting .
    we can all relax and await the no doubt perfect self validating poll or survey which says that 100% of voters want a soft brexit… er… provided we control immigration and ..er.. dont pay the EU any money and ..er .control our own laws but apart from that…

  8. @cambridgerachel

    The Alliance surged peaked with a 50% poll return in late 1981 and was already well on the downslope when the Argentinian invasion took place.

    Whilst speculation on what might have happened if a profoundly influential event hadn’t influenced is somewhat futile, the polling trends would suggest that we were in the process of reverting to, and would have reverted to, either the status quo ante Limehouse of a winning labour lead, or to something more neck and neck between the two big parties as the Thatcher government’s ratings swung back a bit from their initial depths of unpopularity.

    Either way, you’d be hard pressed to spin the early 82 polls as suggesting we were trending to an Alliance victory.

  9. Perhaps as an antidote to this thread, the Indy’s Government refusing to publish 50 ‘secret’ studies on Brexit impact is worth a read.

    The meat is:
    Brexit minister David Jones confirmed in a letter that the Department for Exiting the European Union had “conducted analysis of over 50 sector of the economy”.

    But ministers are so far resisting calls to publish the findings of the investigations in full – arguing that some findings “would undermine the Government’s ability to negotiate the best deal for Britain” were they made public.

    It comes after one leaked piece of research by the Department of Health found that Brexit could cause a shortage of more than 40,000 nurses by 2026.

    It rather begs the question: Why aren’t they “selling” it to the media and publicising it as widely as possible in the EU?

    The reason is presumably that they can find nothing positive to say, or at least nothing that the anti-EU press can get their teeth into.

    If that is the case then Corbyn is wisely keeping his powder dry and offering no succour to the Cons.

    A premature new party could derail that.

  10. ST:

    Are you pleased with all the findings of the LSE/OxfordUni report?

    The report has still has to be peer-reviewed and maybe the authors will rethink, but what they have shown is how divided now are both Remainers and Leavers (defined by their vote in the referendum) .

    According to the Indy, 34% of Leavers would back a deal that gave Britain “no control over EU migration and similar levels of immigration to now”.

    So Leavers are just as split on what they want from Brexit, many wanting it to be ultra-soft, as are Remainers in their tolerance now of leaving.

    And the only conclusion I can draw at this stage is that only a small minority in the UK want a hard Brexit.

    So a new party flatly opposed to Brexit and lacking the LibDem`s baggage, may well attract 25% of the UK electorate.

  11. BZ

    “A premature new party could derail that.”

    I’m informed that premature ejaculation can be a problem. If so, that may be true for both supporters of an altered party structure in England – and for academics. :-)

  12. Literally no one is interested in the ‘new’ Party are they?

    Anyway as Buzzfeed is all we’ve got, I’ll post my burbling from the dying minutes of the last thread Part 1

    MARKW
    The poll that appeared to show that 29% of people preferring to remain in the EC wanted people expelled is a misinterpretation of the research.
    It wasn’t a poll but a series of forced choice questions. Using that format 50% would represent a neutral position.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/infact/brexit-report-latest-remainers-deport-eu-citizens-uk-back-hard-european-union-study-explained-a7892216.html
    Thanks for that. It’s a very good piece by Ben Chu and links to the piece that the academics publish themselves on the LSE website (though not till Sunday afternoon):
    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/08/13/the-british-are-indifferent-about-many-aspects-of-brexit-but-leave-and-remain-voters-are-divided-on-several-key-issues/
    which as you can see has a much more neutral headline and itself links to the technical report that JamesB referred to. Until we saw those it was clear that the whole thing was a bit of a mess (Or as Buzzfeed would no doubt say a Hot Mess) but not clear how, though even the Buzzfeed article had some hints[1].
    There are all sorts of problems with the approach taken with this study. The data comes from April[2] and it’s not clear what the 10% who didn’t vote in the Referendum thought. The main faults though appear to be conceptual.
    [part 2 follows]

  13. Presenting respondents with two alternative packages of choice implies that participants will evaluate each element consistently and that all those items are independent and of equal value to the participants. But, unlike with commercial products (the model for this) clearly that is not true with a complicated situation such as EU withdrawal. What is more, within the options for each element, not all choices are seen as equally likely.
    And using forced choice questions has dangers, even in normal polls. Participants may simply give up, unhappy with their views not being an option. So you may end up with hardliners and those answering randomly being over-represented. That’s even more likely to happen when people are presented with a package of options they almost certainly won’t like all of.
    There seems an idea that you can get more ‘datapoints’ out of this method, but actually the opposite is true because no one respondent is actually given the full range of options and so can’t give their true feelings about what they want. Aggregating up all the least worst options is unlikely to produce a true picture of what the public want and is likely to be very ‘noisy’ due to the process.
    [1] I would put the blame for most of this on the academics, who clearly co-operated with Buzzfeed and could have provided more context. James Ball who wrote the BF piece was always one of the more numerate journalists at the Guardian and would normally be keen to get things right – the fact that even the sample size was originally wrong suggests that the academics at the very least didn’t make themselves clear.
    [2] It was “fielded 26-27 April via YouGov’s online Omnibus panel”, an awkward time as it happened after the Election had been called on 18 April, but before the campaign had much effect. And widescale discussion about how EU withdrawal should work has only really started since the election. There may also have been technical problems with the representativeness of the sample which seems not to have been weighted. For example they say it was “nearly evenly split between men (44.0%) and women (56.0%)”, which doesn’t seem even to me and there were more participants from East of England than London.

  14. OLDNAT @ BZ

    and for academics

    How coarse, but quite possibly so for the buzzfeed three.

  15. So it looks like we will have an extended period for a temporary customs union post Brexit:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40922177

  16. CMJ

    It seems rather premature to think that “the UK suggests” is what the EU will agree to.

    Still, we are used to the BBC ejaculating in such a way – after all their new Charter requires them to do so.

  17. Meanwhile, Bernard Kenny who was stabbed during the murder of Jo Cox, has died.

    His name, along with that of Heather Heyer and others who were murdered by modern day Nazis deserves to be remembered.

  18. @ OLDNAT

    As someone whose family origins are outside England I normally cheerlead from the sidelines your efforts to remind of distinctions that may be forgotten by our largest partner between the various polities that exist in this country and these Islands.

    But you overplay that hand in calling this a prospective English party realignment.

    Should such a realignment happen (not likely I think fwiw), even if it merely involves Conservative and Labour rebels, that’s affecting what are comfortably the two largest 2017 parties in Wales, and a comfortable majority of 2017 votes in Scotland. The Conservatives also stood in about half the seats in NI although they got few votes.

    And it’s a UK issue that the putative split/ realignment is over, not a devolved one. This is not an English matter.

  19. I do find it amusing that some of the Brexorcists who post comments on this site were energised by the Buzzfeed report feeling it supported a country embracing Brexit.

    Then it became apparent that the academic study was based on a very narrow selection of possible Brexit options and polling was conducted one day back in April. So not much buzz really, just a bit of a damp squib.

    Back to the thread, i have always thought a new democratic centrist party could break the seesaw blue or red team politics. They just need a few wealthy backers to get the party up and running, so it can attract members. If they attracted existing MP’s and Lords to jump ship, that would be very helpful to.

  20. PeterW

    “The Alliance surged peaked with a 50% poll return in late 1981 and was already well on the downslope when the Argentinian invasion took place.
    Whilst speculation on what might have happened if a profoundly influential event hadn’t influenced is somewhat futile, the polling trends would suggest that we were in the process of reverting to, and would have reverted to, either the status quo ante Limehouse of a winning labour lead, or to something more neck and neck between the two big parties as the Thatcher government’s ratings swung back a bit from their initial depths of unpopularity.
    Either way, you’d be hard pressed to spin the early 82 polls as suggesting we were trending to an Alliance victory.”

    So you are saying that labour wasn’t too left wing to win in 83? That’s a very controversial point of view.

  21. To answer OldNat’s point, I don’t think that anyone ‘leaked’ it to Buzzfeed, it was a pre-publication release from the authors. Which makes it worse really, because it’s not really a suitable application of techniques and even within that it’s not done very well.

    For example they say:

    Second, because the features that are shown to respondents are fully randomized in the design, we ensure that respondents do not infer or attempt to infer how different aspects of negotiations might be tied to others. For example, if we simply asked respondents about their preferences over trade policy, they are likely to make assumptions about what that might mean for immigration policy. In the conjoint, we provide information about both aspects (as well as others), thereby making any trade-off explicit rather than implicit.

    But some options are tied to others and people aren’t that stupid. The result is that respondents are quite likely to be given two sets of options (‘vignettes’ they call them) which are internally self-contradictory and not that distinguishable from each other. The result may be that the panelists then pick more or less at random or a whim. This may explain why the results for Remainers and Leavers are so close.

  22. R huckle

    A new party would disappear without a trace. Hardly anyone is satisfied with the status quo. What does a new ‘centrist’ party have to offer

  23. Pete W

    We agree on lots of things, but we must disagree on this.

    I’m not being pejorative when talking about the English polity (indeed, I specifically mentioned Cymru as part of an E&W polity.)

    That parties, based in London, have derisory support when they stand in NI should be sufficient evidence that these parties are dissimulating when they pretend that they are “UK” parties.

    I accept (it would be ridiculous not to!) that Unionists in Scotland (simply because they accept the numerical dominance of the voters in England) will respond to whatever political structures that the parties based in England decide to create.

    I wasn’t making some ScotNat v BritNat observation, just reflecting on the reality of how politics works in this odd political structure called the UK.

    Anthony’s thread header makes no mention of SNP, Plaid or any NI party, so it seems reasonable to consider that he was primarily (perhaps exclusively) about the English polity when he penned those words.

  24. “What does a new ‘centrist’ party have to offer”

    Well presumably something other than the status quo if it wants to succeed.As a whole the nation is still pretty centrist but often it seems its as much about the person leading it.

    Still for any new party to survive past an election they’d probably have to have enough MPs to take over and/or force move to a more proportional voting system.

  25. Roger Mexico

    Thanks for the clarification that it wasn’t a “leak” but a deliberate early release.

    That just makes matters worse. If the perpetrator of the account can’t hold back long enough to satisfy the needs ….

    OK. I don’t need to elaborate on that theme any further! :-)

  26. Very interesting article by Anthony. Successful (at least for a time) new parties are not impossible – e.g. Plaid, SNP, UKIP, Green, SDP. To forestall ON, I am aware that SNP have been around for a long time, but they didn’t have significant UK Parliament presence until relatively recently.

    Anyway, that is a side issue. I would just like to point out that the combined Lab/Con vote at the last GE was 82% of the votes cast UK-wide. After a long period of decline that was the highest percentage for the two parties together since 1970 (nearly 50 years ago, and before even I could vote!). It does not seem the most propitious time to launch a new party, but who knows?

  27. ROGER MEXICO
    While I applaud your reiterated attempt to correct the effects of the LSE/Oxford report and its further reporting in the presss, I can’t share your view that the follow-up article by Ben Chu in a sanitising exercise in the Indy is”a very good piece” if it is taken to correct the misintepretation of the stated study results – they are mispresented by the authorsand doubly so in their selective leak to Buzzfeeed and thus to the press. As Chu risghtly saysthey have been damaging, especially to EU citizens in the UK. whose impression that this is an accurate or respectable report on public attitudes to Brexit,, and especially to citizen’s rights and migation.
    They are so particularly from an academic standpoint, in respect of research ethnics but also in respect of the quality of the research design and conduct. In Chu’s account:
    “Then respondents were forced to choose between the baskets (without being told what they were designed to represent). And this showed that when forced to choose between a hard Brexit and a soft Brexit 67 per cent preferred the hard basket. And even among Remainers 53 per cent preferred hard…Furthermore, 66.5 per cent of all respondents even preferred a no deal Brexit to a soft Brexit.”
    Chu does not explain that, as I reported, drawing verbatim on the report’s explanation of its methodology, in my post in the previous thread,, the definition of the three allocations of status as the independent correlate- no deal, soft and hard – were not just inaccurate(notably in respect of the position on migration and citizens’ rights) but – in this context and in the analysis to which they gave rise,, false.

  28. Sorry – research ethics, of course

  29. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40922177

    Seems that the Tory Government position on Brexit will be to secure the status quo until after March 2019. This might answer why Hammond seemed happier to support Government position.

    Does not answer the question of UK long term relationship with the EU. At some point, there will have to be a trade deal with the EU that fully deals with tariffs and other trade rules.

    The compromised positioning might frustrate Brexorcists wanting a clean break with the EU and also not win support of those comcerned about effects of Brexit. Most people will end up viewing economics as being more important than sovereignty.

  30. I am concerned that, if as Ben Wright in the BBC report says: ‘the UK government was “straining to show that it does have a route-map for Brexit”…..[that] ‘ministers were also attempting to “subtly” put the issue onto the negotiating table sooner than Brussels wants’. and that “They want to hustle EU negotiators into talking about trade much sooner than Brussels intends,”
    Keith Starmer’s comment that these proposals are fantastical may be true, and point to what may emerge as a damaging and unsustainable UK government position in the negotiations on Brexit. They would provide no basis for discussion on related issues of citizen’s rights, migration, border control and NI.

  31. John Pilgrim

    I agree with what you say above. The new position papers should give a clearer picture of the UK negotiating stance. Keir Starmer’s remarks are likely to be relevant. The hints on the position of the UK on NI/Ireland border suggest the likely position is not going to be acceptable to the EU, Ireland and any of the nationalist parties in NI. Will there be anything at all about how the UK hopes/intends to achieve a transition deal?

    There is a possibility that the Cons position on Brexit will fall apart within the party. That may also happen to Labour if it succeeds the Cons in government.

    Meanwhile, is this an indication of the potential support for a new centrist party?

    273 supporters raise 7% of the target figure of £100,000 with 9 days remaining.

    https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/new-centrist-pro-eu-political-party/

  32. The response of NI nationalist parties to the UK proposals on NI / Ireland border is negative in advance of the position paper.

    The existing gulf between nationalist and Unionist parties in NI seems likely to widen.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/british-government-stands-over-plan-for-light-touch-border-1.3186607

  33. The NI/Ireland border issue will have a big impact on farmers in NI. The UK and DUP position on the predicament of NI farmers is yet unknown. The more that is revealed by the UK through the position papers the more likely is political discord across the UK, imo.

    Below is a copy/paste of a letter to Irish Times

    “Sir, – Jeffrey Donaldson tells us that the DUP’s decision to support Brexit was based on principle and practicality, (“Taoiseach will have to wait longer for our Brexit plan”, Opinion, August 5th).
    To most people, it would seem highly impractical for the UK government and, indeed the DUP, to have spent 14 months, post referendum, with no plan in sight. For example, for the Northern Ireland agricultural sector, which employs around 60,000 people, the level of uncertainty must be very disturbing.
    In the House of Commons NI Affairs Committee Report of May 2016, dealing with the EU referendum, Dr Graham Gudgin, from Cambridge University, makes the point that “virtually the whole of farm income in NI is covered by the Common Agricultural Policy. If that subsidy is not there, the farming industry in NI would not make any money at all. That is something that nobody in NI has been keen to publicise”.
    Despite the best efforts of the Ulster Farmers Union, the UK government has resolutely refused to give any commitment whatsoever to replace these funds.
    If Mr Donaldson is really concerned about dairy processors in Northern Ireland, perhaps he might at least urge his Conservative colleagues at Westminster to get a move on. We are all waiting. – Yours, etc,
    MARTIN McDONALD,
    Terenure,
    Dublin 12.

  34. S Thomas

    Your 10.07

    Great post and very amusing, the Remainers are so predictable as we move forward to leaving the EU.

  35. @TOH
    “S Thomas
    Your 10.07
    Great post and very amusing, the Remainers are so predictable as we move forward to leaving the EU.
    August 15th, 2017 at 8:49 am”

    But as a non partisan polling site, we just comment on current issues that might influence public opinion.

    Public opinion is not set in stone and might well change. Ignoring the misleading academic study media coverage, if you look at the more recent polling. I think it was a split of 45/45 on remain or leave and 10% undecided.

    It depends on what happens with the Brexit negotiations as to whether Brexit happens. Parliament will decide as Government does not have a majority for Brexit amongst MP’s/Lords.

  36. I’m confused by the ‘temporary customs union’ deal that is apparently the UK’s negotiating position.

    If there’s a deal to be done where we keep the customs union, but it’s administered only by the UK (presumably without oversight by the ECJ), and allows the UK also to do deals with other countries at the same time, then why would we want this only to be temporary? Surely this would be the holy grail that we’re hoping to do for the long-term?

    To try to answer my own question: presumably the idea is that the EU wouldn’t agree to a permanent deal with these features. But why do our negotiators think that the EU would cut us such a deal during the transition period, which seems only to make life far easier for the UK, give us breathing space to negotiated further deals, and weaken the EU’s position in the short, medium and long-terms?

  37. Smileyben: “why do our negotiators think that the EU would cut us such a deal during the transition period, which seems only to make life far easier for the UK, give us breathing space to negotiated further deals, and weaken the EU’s position in the short, medium and long-terms?”

    I suspect that the answer is that they don’t.

    Putting forward proposals that are unlikely to be acceptable provides cover for the failure of negotiations.

    “God knows, we tried, but they wouldn’t listen. The resulting unholy mess is their fault, not ours” is the subsequently available plausible denial of responsibility.

  38. TOH

    Thanks for your unsolicited post returning this thread to the topic of Brexit.

    Professing boredom and disdain for a topic but being unable to resist returning to it is so…

    predictable?

  39. Somerjohn:
    Still – why not ask for the moon on a stick, and make that the long-term demand, rather then temporary. It does rather invite the question: if we want rainbows and unicorns and cakes for the two-year transition period, why accept less after that?

  40. Smileyben

    A good question. Several possible answers occur.

    First, some such avoidance of a cliff edge is essential to avoid catastrophic effects on trade and industry. But seeking a permanent arrangement would provoke shrieks of “betrayal” from hardline brexiters and threaten a Tory split and/or UKIP revival. But a time-limited extension of the customs union might be grudgingly accepted (TOH could advise us on this).

    Second, it’s simply an exercise in kicking the can down the road.

    Or, third, it’s as I suggested above: designed to provide cover for a cliff-edge catastrophe.

  41. on

    “I don’t need to elaborate on that theme any further”

    Can’t disagree with that.

    somerjohn

    I imagine that it’s nice to know that when you post your views on brexit it generally seems to “amuse” a few people ?

    Of course, the reality is that there IS an anti-brexit majority in both parliaments, and they will only continue to support leave if public opinion [which is not set in stone] stays pretty much the same at 50/50 or even hardens towards leave.

    But should that opinion move against brexit [and I’m not predicting it will, simply that it could] then they may well feel that it is their duty to reflect that in their voting patterns.

    [Cue unbridled, sardonic “amusement”…..]

  42. Previous comment in moderation, trying again…

    While En Marche! has proved the possibility of a centrist emergence, that was in a very different political structure. Macron didn’t need a party base, just media attention. Without Le Pen it would have proved impossible too; France’s presidential system gives outsiders a chance to get to the run-off, but they’d usually be defeated by the establishment candidate. It was only the peculiar circumstances that tanked Fillon that let two outsiders into the run-off, after which centrism was always going to beat the far right.

    Without that series of events, Macron wouldn’t be president, and LREM wouldn’t be in power. It doesn’t work that way here; you can’t run for PM and build a party base later.

    The real issue is that such a new party would have no time to become established; if there were significant defections from the Conservatives and Labour (and MPs would have to come from both in equal measure to draw voters from both), and a merger with the Lib Dems, such a party would immediately bring down the government and cause new elections. Odds are that very few of those MPs would end up back in parliament, as their new brand wouldn’t have the time to become fixed in the public imagination.

    It would probably make sense for the country, but for the MPs in question it would be too great a political risk.

  43. I hope polling companies ask questions to find out whether people would vote for a new Democratic party, with their main policy to stay in the EU.

    As long as their other policies were also sensible middle of the road, while being different to other parties at Westminster. The problem for any new party is offering something distinctive and not to be attracted to vested interests who might provide party funding.

    I have always dreamed of having many more parties at Westminster under a system of PR. No Governments with large majorities dominating Westminster and deciding on most of what MP’s/lords get to vote on. The UK has not really had what i would call a properly functioning Parliamentary democracy.

  44. I think it’s time for a complete shake up of the parties we have in this country (well England at least).

    I suggest the current parties dissolve and we have three new parties: Hard Brexiteers, Soft Brexiteers and Remainers. At least for the next two years anyway….

  45. R Huckle
    Nice try getting back to the supposed subject of this thread. I agree that it would be good in some ways to have a wider variety of parties in Parliament (for England anyway).

    Otherwise it’s just Brexit, Brexit, Brexit (yawn).

  46. Tell me i am not the only one who thinks the purpose of a new Party being promoted by an ex advisor to David Cameron is to take votes from Labour and the libdems to the benefit of the Tories.

    If the Remain vote largely splits between three Parties and the Tories dominate the Leave vote the Tories win!

    The new party shouldn’t be the democrats they should be the Splitters!

    Peter.

  47. Paul Croft: “I imagine that it’s nice to know that when you post your views on brexit it generally seems to “amuse” a few people ?”

    Yup. Always good to spread a little sweetness and light in dark corners…

    And, of course, it works both ways. I’m enjoying some of your nicely-put “unbridled, sardonic “amusement” ” at the prospect of the triumphally touted Brexit countdown calendar having to be reset with the addition of another 730 days until the purist definition of not being in the EU is satisfied

  48. A new centrist party? Is that Simon Kelner’s vanity project, as he searches for Britain’s Macron? I can’t see it working…doomed to fail.

    What would a new centrist party offer that’s significantly different from the Lib Dems?

  49. John Pilgrim

    I didn’t really comment on the three ‘baskets’ because I thought you had already nailed down just how poorly thought out and badly-labelled the alternatives were in your comments. But to be fair to Chu, after the bit you quote, in the “So does this mean that people really favour a hard Brexit?” he did go on to point out some of the faults in that part of the report.

    Perhaps he could have discussed the migration and citizens rights aspects (which the research bizarrely tries to pretend are independent of each other) as he mentioned them earlier, but you can’t do everything in a newspaper piece. I thought by the standards of coverage of polling in most media at the moment it was pretty detailed and level-headed. Especially when you consider how much stuff in the Indy at the moment is just OMG- LOLZ!!!

  50. @ Cambridge Rachel

    “So you are saying that labour wasn’t too left wing to win in 83? That’s a very controversial point of view.”

    That’s the problem with having a biased British media…the history they write is revisionist.

    After Foot’s election as leader in 1980, opinion polls showed a double-digit lead for Labour, boosting his hopes of becoming prime minister in the next general election, which had to be held by May 1984. The formation of the SDP – who formed an alliance with the Liberal Party in June 1981 – contributed to a fall in Labour support. The double-digit lead which had still been intact in opinion polls at the start of 1981 was swiftly wiped out, and by the end of October the opinion polls were showing the Alliance ahead of Labour. Labour briefly regained their lead of most opinion polls in early 1982, but when the Falklands conflict ended on 14 June 1982 with a British victory over Argentina, opinion polls showed the Tories firmly in the lead.

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