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. Two points.

    Firstly on child exploitation.

    I think we need to confront two things, firstly an attitude is some communities which although not wide spread seems to think that Western women are “asking for it!” be it is some countries abroad or here.

    Secondly why we as a society seem to have so many vulnerable teenage girls in the first place.

    I am not blaming anybody for either as we are talking about cultures that have emerged over time, but rather what we do about it.

    We need all men of all cultures to respect women more and to confront those that don’t and to support women more challenging sexism in all it’s forms. Focusing on Asian Gangs and vulnerable white Girls while thinking there is nothing wrong with Page 3 or Love Island as they are a bit of fun misses the point.

    While we have been talking about this over the last few months there has been a story about a Saudi Model being filmed at a holy site in a mini skirt with some condemning it will others have pointed out that if it had been a western model people with have talked about how sexy she was as opposed to it being a disgrace.

    Equally there have been a series of articles about men watching porn on mobiles in public and “up Skirting” which seem to suggest that the sexualisation of women in public whether they like it or not is widespread.

    Focusing on one aspect, all be it the worst while ignoring the wider underlying problem isn’t going to solve either.

    On Germany.

    I think by and large it has grown to be the ,if not dominant, the preeminent player in Europe but mostly because it has achieved the duel task of making Europe work for it while also making Europe work. We never even came close.

    Over the last decade since the financial crash Germany has accepted nearly 2 million migrants, 350k from Syria alone. we are struggling to meet our 20k target!

    It’s estimated that by the end of this year it will have spent up €50bn on the refugee crisis which is probably more that the UK’s EU divorce bill.

    In short Germany has put it’s money where it’s mouth is and has risen to the challenge while we have looked at our feet. That gives them a moral authority that we now lack.

    Our response to the fact that they put in the hard work to make it work and have made it work, while we complained that it wasn’t working for us, is to say that it’s broken and their fault rather than ours.

    As others have said, if you can’t influence the EU from within what makes you think you can change the world from outside.

    As I’ve asked on numerous occasions, never with a good answer from Leave supporters;

    If Germany is more successful across the EU and globally than us when we both trade under the same EU terms, how can you blame the EU terms?

    It looks so much that having lost the race we are complaining about the track being too slippy even when it’s pointed out everyone was running on the same track!

    Brexiteers seem to see it as two sides Leave supporters were frustrated and feed up with the EU, its politics and rules and were prepared to do something about it while Remainers were complacent and either didn’t care, where to lazy to try and change it or were on the gravy train.

    For me there are two sides too!

    retainers who thought that for all it’s flaws the EU was better tan the alternative and like the US or India, governing a continent and close to half a billion people was always going to be like this because its immensely difficult, in short they could control their frustration and see the long term bigger picture.

    Leave supporters couldn’t do that so they threw the baby out with the bath water and, much like Trump supporters wanting an outsider or an end to Obama Care, decided to get rid of what they didn’t’t like out of anger, without really having a thought through or viable alternative.

    Peter.

  2. somerjohn

    I totally agree with your last post [although the word “dominant” seems okay to me as it doesn’t need to imply any pejorative of itself.]

    In fact, that was the point I was trying to make to TOH. If any one country COULD manage outside the EU it is Germany. Like others here I have visited Germany often: I have also attended music festivals there and stayed with German friends and there is just so much [including their sense of humour] to admire.

    But the fact that they have, as a country, decided to put their own potential dominance and narrow self-interest aside in the interest of a wider, pan-European context, is just something else to admire about them.

    TOH to somerjohn

    “Fair comment, I withdraw that comment (““As to negativity it all comes from Remainers”) if that makes you happy.”

    I’m afraid that just makes me think of Livingstone’s “I apologise if anyone was offended” sleight of tongue.

    It would be a lot better if you are going to bother withdrawing a comment to do so because you agreed that it was incorrect surely, not in just order to make someone “happy”. [A comment which contains its own undertone by the way.]

  3. Somerjohn

    An interesting post but I was surprised at the following:-

    “But what baffles me is those who combine a fear of a resurgent, dominant Germany, with a desire to see the end of the very mechanism that limits that domination, and puts Germany’s huge success to work for the common European good.

    I personally do not fear a resurgent dominent Germany, if I did I would probably want to stay in the EU. I am relaxed about it being even more dominent in a small EU. Mind, will some of the other EU members be as relaxed?

    I don’t wish for the demise of the EU, I just expect it to happen, starting with the collapse of the Euro. I am neutral on the EU at the moment and will remain so if they are sensible in the negotiations. However if the EU countries set out to damage the UK as it leaves then that neutral attitude would change.

    I think that Germany works for Germany’s good. Perhaps that’s a little cynical but it’s what countries do. Germany have gained great benefit from the EU especially since the inception of the Euro.

  4. Somerjohn

    Sorry that should read smaller EU not small EU.

  5. Paul Croft
    “But the fact that they have, as a country, decided to put their own potential dominance and narrow self-interest aside in the interest of a wider, pan-European context, is just something else to admire about them.”

    Germany did not set its ‘narrow self-interest aside’ aside when it came to the way the Euro has been implemented. It has been a dreamtime for Germany, at the substantial cost to some other EU member states. I really dont think Greeks find much to admire in them.

  6. TOH: “I personally do not fear a resurgent dominent Germany, ”

    So why do you keep going on about the UK being a vassal of a German-dominated EU?

  7. PAUL CROFT

    Yes I was a bit sloppy, happy to change it to :-

    “I withdraw that comment (““As to negativity it all comes from Remainers”).

    As I said before I don’t have a problem with Germans, and I too have German friends and I have visited Germany many times over the years as I have many of the countries in the EU.

  8. Somerjohn

    “So why do you keep going on about the UK being a vassal of a German-dominated EU?”

    Because that’s what being a member of the EU makes us. You really don’t understand do you?

  9. Good Afternoon all, from Bournemouth in the sun and the rain.
    I think the leader EU may well still be a more reliable partner, and I agree that EU is becoming a State, than the President of the USA and the Republicans in the USA, and the DUP in the six counties.

    Just my view, may be wrong, but USA has always exacted a harsh price from UK.

  10. Somerjohn

    I should have added.

    Do you see why I so agree with Alan’s post that dialogue is a waste of time.

  11. Cheers Howard.

    By the way, you may remember that I posted some time ago to say I didn’t see the point of any debate on brexit – pretty much with anyone, anywhere, but especially on UKIP as that is not it’s purpose.**

    My very logical reason is that economics, especially when predicting the future, is an uncertain business but also, no matter how convincing an argument you put forward as to why we should leave, I bloody well don’t want to!!

    And for you it’s the other round of course.

    However, one way for you to avoid it all is to ignore all posters banging on about why we SHOULD stay and stop telling them how amusing you find their posts……

    ** There is an obvious flaw in the proscriptions that AW sensibly tries to impose. Inasmuch as there are no regular polls, if we are to live by these rules then the site might as well close down for the long, inbetweeny bits.

    [That would have an upside as I would play more Bach…]

  12. Paul Croft

    Cheers to you as well Paul.

    “However, one way for you to avoid it all is to ignore all posters banging on about why we SHOULD stay and stop telling them how amusing you find their posts……”

    Your right again, I have tried to do that but every now and again somebody says something I find really either so incorrect its amusing or irritating or both, and it sets me off. I’ll try a little harder although no promises.

    On more serious matters how are you getting on with the Bach partita? I have a Segovia version somewhere but have been unable to find it.

  13. TOH: “Because that’s what being a member of the EU makes us. You really don’t understand do you?”

    So the EU is composed of 28 vassal states? Or one lord and 27 vassals?

    If you really believe the EU is an all-powerful subjugator of nation states, bending them all to its will, then I guess dialogue is indeed fruitless.

    But do just take a moment to ponder the nature of our relationship with the USA since WW2. Think about how we were sharply brought to heel by a tug on the leash at Suez; think about how we willingly accepted nuclear missiles in East Anglia long before the USSR tried to do the same in Cuba; think about that disturbing and demeaning image of our PM holding hands with a deranged would-be demagogue. And then consider where the real danger of vassaldom lies.

  14. The slightly bizarre thing about the ‘dominated by Germans’ meme is that – from those conversations I have bene party to and articles read – the general view in Brussels has been that up until 2010 the UK had influence beyond that which might be expected from its size, in part due to the clever management of expansion states in eastern Europe, which sought a counterweight to the German/French view.

    In fact the French were quite whiny about how the UK exercised too much influence in EU corridors.

    However there was bemusement about our politicians’ ability to agree and even enthuse about something in Brussels and then complain loudly about it to the tabloid press when they got back to the UK, a problem that became orders of magnitude worse from 2010.

    If the EU is currently being steered in a German direction it is at least as much because Cameron, Osbourne and May walked away from the tiller in 2010 as anything else…

  15. Howard

    I have a new, cunning plan which involves leaving the chaconne a littll longer.

    One of my guitars is a 11 string [called Anna Magdalena after Bach’s second Missis] and I am now working on the first cello suite, BWV 1007, in it’s original key [and with that wonderful, ubiquitous prelude] and the first “lute” ** suite BWV 996, in E minor [with it’s popular Bouree, as played by Jethro Tull in the 70s]

    Funny how Germany rather dominates serious music as well isn’t it?

  16. BFR

    Exactamundo.

  17. Somerjohn

    “And then consider where the real danger of vassaldom lies.”

    I have and it lies in the EU, which is why I want to leave and be an truly independant country again trading across the World, able to make trade deals with EU constraints, conrolling our own borders as we wish, and with the UK supreme court as the supreme legal arbiter of the UK.

    A for our relationship with the USA , have you forgotten the Regan/Thatcher special relationship which brought down the evil empire.

  18. Re ole Carfrew – I was also wondering if peeps knew if he was okay? I am naturally anxious that he may have fallen down a thorium mine or got stuck in a storage container or summat.

    He’s prolly okay though…

  19. A ToH

    That will be the Reagan/Thatcher special relationship that really wasn’t very keen on supporting us over the Falklands, pushed cruise missiles onto the UK against the wishes of the majority of the population, and invaded a commonwealth country (Grenada) without even telling us…?

    Being serious, yes there was strong relationship, but there was absolutely no doubt for a minute who was in charge, and it wasn’t the UK – I’m being a bit unfair above, but I think you are seeing things through the rosy spectacles of memory a little bit too…

  20. The Brexit dialogue of the deaf continues I see. I apologise for anything I have done to add to this.
    I have generally stopped posting because the posts of TOH, S Thomas and Pete B amongst others (I apologise to them for this) have me spitting in anger and my eyes spinning with incredulity and any response would demonstrate that. I realise that they, in turn, probably have similar reactions to some Remainer posts. I would simply ask that all on both sides change the record, I thought the discussion on weather statistics was lively and informative. Can’t we find something similar to debate? If not I may leave and return only when this ghastly brexit process is at an end and something else can be discussed.
    I, FWIW, would suggest a return to the topic of the thread: I do not believe the conditions currently exist for the creation of a centre party, however I wonder if Chapman is raising the idea as a sort of shell into which the hermit crab of disaffected politicians will crawl if conditions change?

    What does everybody think?

  21. Paul Croft

    “Funny how Germany rather dominates serious music as well isn’t it?”

    There are certainly many great German composers, but personally I have a very wide taste. What I play (on CD player only, no musical talent) is dependent on mood. I struggle with 12 note music, but quite like some of the modern minimalists such as Glass, especially his violin concerto. As you might expect I am also a fan of many English composers with Vaughn Williams a particular favourite, especially where he makes use of modal form. I could go on and on about opera and chamber music as well but this is not the place.

    Listening to music that truly moves me is proberbly the nearest I get to spirituality.

    Enjoy your afternoon the Test Match is about to start.

  22. BIGFATRON

    We don’t actually disagree, of course Regan was the stonger member of the duo, but as you say there was a special relationship.

  23. Somerjohn

    my 1.35

    “able to make trade deals with EU constraints”

    Shoulf of course read “without EU constraints”

    Apologies in a hurry.

  24. @Analyst

    I actually stuck a tenner on Leadsom on the off-chance that it got to the membership.

  25. @ WB

    “I, FWIW, would suggest a return to the topic of the thread”

    Nice idea, but I think the problem is that most of us agree that a third party has absolutely no chance*. Hence not much to discuss. Disagreements go on for much longer.

    To be honest, I think AW said it all perfectly, I particularly agree with the: “A more negative consideration is what one thinks a new anti-Brexit party could offer that the Liberal Democrats aren’t already offering.”.

    The only thing I’d take issue with in AW’s assessment is that he ends up sitting on the fence, but he probably has to do that given his position.

    * Which, as we also know, means we’re probably all wrong.

  26. Impressive. Both Vaughan-Williams and Jethro Tull mentioned on the same page. Two of my all time favourites.

  27. NICKP

    @”What makes you sure all the victims were “white” girls – and why does that matter to you so much?”

    Such reports as I have read on the ethnicity of the victims indicates that.most of them were. It matters because that adds a racist dimension to the crime when set beside the suggesting that the “white slags” ( not the quotation marks) targeted were available in a way that girls from the perpetrators’ own ethnic group were not.

    If this is in fact a common theme then the high level of abuse of women on the Sub-Continent ( 70% to 90% in Pakistan according to Human Rights Watch) might be a clue that unacceptable cultural norms are being imported to UK. Of course if questions of this sort are forever shouted down as “racist” , no answers will be forthcoming, and the victim group in question will continue to be at risk.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochdale_child_sex_abuse_ring

    None of this is to suggest that “Muslim/Pakistani men are a danger to “young white”-a typical extention of the specific to the general in order to sow doubt.

    Nor is there any suggestion that child abuse committed by and against non-Asian groups does not take place in the UK.

  28. Good afternoon all from a very damp Winchester.

    Who mentioned Germany?? I arrived back yesterday from a two week secondment to Stuttgart. Lovely city and the wider Baden-Württemberg as far as public transport is concerned has to be commended for its efficiency.

    If I’m being honest, coming back to the UK from Germany is like stepping back in time by about 30 years. The whole country just seems light years ahead of us.

    And they make good cars.

  29. THE OTHER HOWARD

    “There are certainly many great German composers”
    _____

    None better than my Audi A3 Cabriolet 187bhp 2.0-litre engine.

    Music to anyone’s ears…????

  30. Germans dominating serious music?

    Not sure whether you mean Kraftwerk or 99 Red Balloons?

  31. 99 red balloons is a fantastic track, especially in German

  32. Allan

    Are you talking Britain down? Where’s your patriotism man!?

  33. @ NickP and @CR

    99 LuftBalon is a bit 1980’s for me I much prefer Danke Schoen or Wooden Heart for my German Schlager

  34. Or how about Spanish: Que Sera Sera very apposite in a Brexit era where no-one can agree on the future (or, it appears even what has already happened).

  35. Or perhaps Italian

    Come prima, pui di prima t’amero

    Like before, more than before I love EU

    Please forgive the translation pun

  36. “…unacceptable cultural norms are being imported to UK”

    Surely all rape and abuse raises some questions about the rapist(s) or abuser(s)?

    But to assume that being a Muslim makes you more likely to commit rape or abuse is a the sort of assumption or leap to conclusion that is likely to based upon prejudice?

    Groups of men groomed groups of girls with booze and drugs in exchange for sex. Depressingly familiar going back years, sadly. Wasn’t long ago that Savile was given the keys to Broadmoor to visit all the bedrooms, and whole institutions were devoted to raping kids unfortunate enough to be sent to them for “care”.

    Yeah attitudes to women and girls, and to children and to other people are impacted. Let’s not pretend that this is a particulate imported problem of swarthy heathens preying white girls.

    Lock em up and throw away the key, all of them.

    But is a rapist more likely to be a Muslim, or Pakistani, or whatever other label you want to attach than any other religion or race?

    I’ll certainly agree they are more likely to be men than women.

  37. I’m not fan of capital punishment but surely there has to an appropriate punishment of some sort for people who write or say “simples” ?

  38. Colin I did reply but the childish and excessive auto moderation stepped in, and frankly I can’t be bothered with it.

  39. @ paul croft

    I’m not fan of capital punishment but surely there has to an appropriate punishment of some sort for people who write or say “simples” ?

    Maybe death by a thousand (meer)cuts

  40. Sorry all if my humour is a little puerile but its Friday afternoon, I have dealt with a very distressing case this week and I am just trying to lighten my mood before the weekend,

  41. Alan,

    I was in Germany last week for a few days and yes in some respects it is ahead of the UK especially wrt to efficiency. I had forgotten, though, how unpleasant having to inhale and smell other peoples stale cigarettes was and was surprised at how much smoking occurred in public places and fag litter everywhere.

  42. wB

    I am sorry you spit everytime you read one of my posts but you have to ask yourself whether you would be on this site if everybody agreed with everything you say. Imagine if the only response to an anti brexit post was supportive or visa versa.It is the hearing of different views ,even if you disagree with them, that is the essence of free speech.
    Brexit is simply the current weapon of choice for people who enjoy jousting on here. When Brexit is done and dusted we will all find something else to fall out about.

  43. CAMBRIDGERACHEL
    Allan
    Are you talking Britain down? Where’s your patriotism man
    ________

    Not at all…I was flying the flag for UK olc when I was over in Germany and if all goes to plan then my colleagues and I will have secured several extra millions in tax receipts for our chancellor of the exchequer.

  44. Allan

    I was kidding

  45. There are some truly bizarre cross breaks in the BMG poll – Tories a long way ahead in London and Wales, but 26 points down from Labour in Scotland? All unlikely.

    Big pinch of salt for this poll methinks, especially given BMG’s terrible performance at the General.

  46. Anyone have any thoughts on the steady creep upwards of UKIP VI since the election?

    My guess is that it’s a very soft return for some 2015 kippers, and would quickly vanish if an election was called.

  47. Jim Jam

    As a non smoker I totally get where you’re coming from but I don’t know what is worse…having to endure other peoples fag smells in Germany or standing on the platform at Winchester station in the mornings and being consumed by a haze of fruit flavoured vapour from vape smokers!!

    It’s not pleasant going into work smelling like a tootie fruity.

  48. Allan

    “It’s not pleasant going into work smelling like a tootie fruity.”

    Do people try to bite you?

  49. Yougov poll (hooooray!)

    only as to leaders.

    The rehabilitation continues, A net 20 point gain against corbyn. Imagine just what her gain would be if she had never came back from her holiday. Meanwhile images of Jezza in his lycra have seriously hit his polling figures.

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