The Once and Future Party

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately.

A couple of days ago, I got dumped.

I’ve been curled up in a ball, ugly crying and wiping snot off my face while listening to cliched break up anthems- the ones with shouty choruses. I don’t know if we’ll just be good friends or if this will be an open relationship or we’re just allowed to flirt. There might be someone else in the picture already. I have no fecking idea.

I’m blindsided.

I’m heartbroken.

I was in love with hope.

I was in love with TIG/Change UK.

So, by now we’ve heard both sides. The Five ChUkers were all-in on campaigning for the European elections while the TIG Six were more circumspect about standing candidates without the infrastructure to get out the vote. The TIG Six wanted to encourage tactical voting to maximise the Remain vote while the Five ChUkers wanted to get a few wins under our banner and establish ourselves as the unequivocal Remain force in the land. One side advocated caution and compromise and the other believed that a bold gamble would pay off.

I have sympathy with both arguments despite our electoral drubbing. It was great to meet up and leaflet with other activists who had only been Twitter handles. It was energising to talk to voters on the street who gave us a hearing. For many people out there, this was the first time they had heard of us- yeah, not everyone starts their day with Politico London Playbook and ends with Newsnight. We really believed in this party and we finally had a chance to tell people why. We took so much of our own positivity as an omen of success But, as the song goes, just because it feels good, doesn’t make it right.

However, it was always going to be a tough sell to stump for a Party with no official platform. What do we want? Remain! What else do we want? Well, there’s this thirty-four page think tank paper you should read which sets out the broad principles of our political philosophy but we’re going to hold events where you can…….See? Even your eyes glazed over a little. What did get people to stop and talk is when we referred them to RemainVoter to check how best they could vote tactically. That got their attention. We came across as what we are- decent, honest, thoughtful and anti-ideological. That’s where the TIG Six were. That very same pragmatism when captured in a sound bite came across as lack of conviction and seriousness of purpose. We didn’t look like winners. We looked like a wasted vote.

We can dissect all the other missteps and enumerate them like the still-damp tissues I have arranged in a circle at my feet as a tribute to the gods of political self-pity. We had a laughably bad new name, a new logo that required a degree in semiotics to understand and a complete absence of media strategy to come up with a consistent message or even articulate why anyone should vote for us. The local election gains of the Lib Dems changed the equation and we couldn’t agree on how to respond. Those competing arguments were aired on the air. Rule numero uno in politics- debate the OTHER parties.

Have you ever had an argument with a spouse or partner at a dinner party? Your lips curled in a frozen smile and teeth gritted while you sotto voce explain that whatever your partner or spouse has just said is wrong/offensive/likely to get you both shivved. We started as eleven MPs breaking bread at Nando’s and ended with the equivalent of grinding your heel into your partner’s foot to get them to STFU.

Now each of us has a choice to make. Some of us can’t see the Lib Dems as anything other than a different flavour of the left with its own unrepented history of antisemitism, crank pacifism and a fixation on changing the electoral system to the exclusion of articulating any other policy. They’ve sort of been the Party equivalent of beige. They go with everything, they’re mostly inoffensive but aren’t anybody’s favourite colour. If there was some sort of electoral pact between the TIG Six and the Lib Dems, it might just blow up in a different way. We’d be the junior partners in that firm and they might not welcome our challenge to their established base. I can’t picture any of the TIG Six wearing fleece and walking sandals. Can you?

The TIG Six might be hoping that defectors from Labour and the Conservatives will see the reclaimed Independent label as a more comfortable halfway house. A General Election called by a new hard Brexiteer PM would take the shackles of majority maintenance off pro-EU MPs in Remain seats. Mass deselections and the completion of the BlueKip Entry Project might concentrate some minds. After the Peterborough by-election, more than a few Labour MPs are questioning how long they can enable their Party’s antisemitism. Tom Watson’s appearance in support of Lisa Forbes shows his antiracism rhetoric to be hollow and his will to power to be without principle. The great political realignment to come might just need a loose group of independent MPs who can agree on enough to be the kingmakers in a possible hung parliament. They might hold the balance of power to keep bad from becoming worse.

On the other hand, the ChUK Five might, as a more temperamentally cohesive force, find the discipline to articulate common sense centrism to a country in chaos. The times are volatile and we can’t predict what will happen next week. If there is discontent in the Remain electorate and it fails to find inspiration in the LibDems new leader, a strong slate of ChUK candidates might do very well. This period of internal turmoil and reformation may help the ChUK Five avoid the same past mistakes.They wouldn’t be dependent on defectors and malcontents and could summon new candidates who come with name recognition. To some extent, this was the selection strategy in the EU election and the ChUK Five can only hope that they haven’t exhausted the goodwill of stars like Gavin Esler. Now they have time for a proper rebranding exercise and some breathing room to decide what they want to be when they grow up. They might learn to articulate Centrism in a way that sounds radical and fresh.

I’ll admit I’m as torn as my tissues. As long as the corruption that lead to Brexit goes unexamined and unchecked and as long as racism and reheated Marxism remains a threat to our country, we need to work for something better. If you’re reading this, you are probably wrestling with this choice too. For now, I will chose not to make a choice. My admiration for the bravery of all eleven of our MPs remains undimmed. In time, I might see this split as part and parcel of this bravery. Knowing when to call time on a dysfunctional relationship is a grown up thing. Knowing that you should do it before you can’t remember who bought which LPs and arguing whether to divide the dog front and back or lengthwise is admirable too.

Of course, in my heart of hearts, I believe in love. I resist accepting that this split is permanent as long as there’s more that unites us than divides us. So, I’m re-tuning the radio and singing Let’s Stick Together into my hairbrush and hoping for better times.

Rebecca Strom Trenner is a writer who has become disillusioned with the claims of the beauty industry. There is no such thing as cry-proof mascara, you liars!

What has the EU ever done for us? A personal and positive view of our membership of the European Union.

For me, the 24th June 2016 has to go down as one of the bleakest days of my adult life. That day brought a numbed realisation that all of my fears about the referendum result had been realised. 51.8% of those who voted across the UK had taken the decision to renounce our membership of a multinational organisation which has served the people of this land so well in so many ways since 1973. For over 40 years, the European Union has been run down and vilified in the popular press and by those in the public eye who have together been at the forefront of promoting myth and misrepresentation about our relationship with Europe, often pandering to unhelpful age old stereotypes and prejudices.

Neither before or during the referendum campaign had the general public ever really been presented with the facts concerning the background, context and work of the EU and so a great many cast their vote in a semi-informed manner. In my view, people have chosen unwittingly to severely damage the national economy and their own economic prospects, limit the life choices of the next generation, put at risk gender equality, consumer rights, social legislation and legal representation, and risk areas of environmental protection and the fight against crime and terrorism.

Having called the referendum in order to lance a large UKIP leaning boil which had been growing within his party, David Cameron’s approach to the campaign was complacent and inadequate; the same could equally be said of the leader of the opposition. Confident that a win could be achieved by merely setting out the negative economic impacts of leaving the EU, he manifestly failed to extol the wider benefits of our membership to the electorate. The then prime minister, his chancellor of the exchequer and Mr Corbyn opened the way for the barrage of myths, untruths, downright lies and negative sound bites of the Vote Leave campaign that resonated with a great many.

“I voted ‘Out’” said a member of staff at my current place of employment. “I believed what it said on that poster on the bus about £350 million a week coming into the NHS. Other people I know thought the same. I’ll admit I didn’t really know the facts.” The mother of a close friend voted Leave to give a bloody nose to David Cameron and his government. “I never thought for a minute that Vote Leave would actually win”, she said. Countless more people across the country used the referendum as a chance to signal their disgruntlement to their respective political leaders - but was there ever a less appropriate time to register a protest vote?

People indeed had manifest reasons for voting to leave; to do with concerns over national sovereignty, fears surrounding immigration and for many older voters, an emotionally based response yearning for the return of some halcyon period in the past. The problem was that what was lacking was an informed debate.

Formed out of the European Coal and Steel Community just 6 years after the turmoil of the Second World War, the concept of a European free trade area was born. With the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the EU began life in 1958 with six founding member states. In 1973 the UK, Denmark and Republic of Ireland joined the Low Countries, France, Italy and West Germany as the first expansion took place. Further enlargements over the years have seen membership grow to 28 states including former wartime adversaries as well as the previously communist countries of Eastern Europe.

So what of the European Union? Why is membership of it so important and why should we strive tooth and nail to remain part of it? What follows is just the tip of an iceberg of benefits.

1. Promotion of Peace: The fundamental purposes of the European Union are to promote greater social, political and economic harmony among member states. Nations whose economies are closely aligned are less likely to engage in conflict. After the violent upheavals which engulfed the continent in the first half of the twentieth century, the EU has served to foster international peace, friendship, cooperation, partnership, understanding and prosperity.

2. Free Trade and economic well-being: The UK economy has hugely benefited from signing up to the core principles of the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital. Coming into being in 1993, the Single Market and Customs Union allow the member states of the EU to trade freely with each other across national boundaries and charge the same import duties on goods and services from beyond the EU. The Single Market is by far our largest trading partners and it’s no coincidence our membership of the Single Market has coincided with the greatest period of prosperity which this country has enjoyed in modern times.

3. Employment: A recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research states that over 3.1 million jobs in the UK are linked to the UK’s exports to the EU rising by an estimated 790,000 by 2030 should we remain; millions more are either directly funded by the EU, linked to EU investment programmes in the UK or are jobs in manufacturing and business linked to the EU through the various free trade agreements of, or enabled by, the trading conditions provided by the Single Market. Through the Common Agriculture Policy, the EU provides considerable subsidies to British farmers and serves to bolster agriculture and ensure job stability for the 476,000 working in this or related sectors of the economy. The CBI states that EU membership has had a positive impact upon small and medium sized enterprises. It estimates that this trade with the EU is worth 4.5% of our GDP or around £70bn a year. Leaving the EU brings with it a real threat of widespread job losses.

4. The freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in the EU: Over 1.5 million Britons do, and have done, just this. As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Requiring only a valid UK passport, we have seen our vocational, employment and lifestyle choices greatly widen. Furthermore, we can choose to retire anywhere in Europe and still receive a full UK state pension.

5. Holidays are far easier and safer: We travel to Europe more than anywhere else and we have the right to free emergency healthcare. As European citizens we do not require visas for travel within the EU and are not subject to lengthy delays at customs in ports and airports. To add to this, the EU blacklists ‘dangerous airlines’ while its air passenger rights laws ensure that EU citizens receive advice and assistance when stranded as well as enabling compensation should flights be seriously delayed or cancelled, or a person be denied boarding. We can also get advice and help from any EU embassy or consulate if a UK one is unavailable.

6. Consumer rights: Being in the EU means you’re less likely to get ripped off. You receive equal customer and consumer protection rights anywhere within the EU. The EU consumer rights ensure transparency from sellers as well as guarantee the quality and safety of their products. A two year guarantee on all products and a ceiling on roaming mobile phone charges are just two examples of the consumer benefits brought about by EU membership.

7. The fight against organised crime: The EU organises international cooperation and coordination in the fight against crime. Through this there is greater protection against paedophiles as well as those involved in sexual exploitation, modern slavery, drug trafficking, people trafficking, terrorism and cyber-crime. The ability for member states to share information and coordinate responses, sometimes simultaneously in several countries, is vital to the UK’s security.

8. Environmental Quality and Protection: The EU has the strongest environmental protection laws in the world. Its directives against airborne particles have seen the air quality over our urban areas improve. Legislation against dumping waste and sewage has led to cleaner UK beaches many of which have receive Blue Flag awards. It is now safe to consume shellfish from almost anywhere along the coast and not risk illness. The EU funds around 50% of jobs in nature conservation and wildlife protection in the UK while through its strict laws against poaching and trade in exotic species, we play an important role in wider international wildlife conservation.

9. Workers Rights: The EU has been instrumental in passing legislation to support, protect and further workers rights in terms of maternity and paternity pay, working hours, leave and paid holidays, gender equality in the workplace as well as smoke free workplaces.

10. Funded education and research: Many UK students apply to study at universities throughout the EU with the same rights as all EU citizens. In addition to this, thousands of UK undergraduates each year benefit socially, culturally, academically and vocationally from the student exchange opportunities provided through the Erasmus programme. Furthermore, thousands of posts in scientific research are funded by the EU in UK universities and other establishments.

11. Greater influence. A medium sized country like the UK will never be economically dominant again either regionally or globally. Our diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms and so remaining as a committed and major member of the world’s biggest international institution gives us greater significance and influence.

12. A real bargain: A populist myth propagated over the years is that the EU takes a disproportionately large annual contribution from the UK and offers back very little in return. Nothing could be further from the truth. In exchange for all of the benefits available to us through EU membership, we pay, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), £9.4 billion per year which amounts to 1.2% of government spending or £0.39 per person per day. This is less in actual terms than Germany and France and about the same as Italy but less in proportionate terms than countries such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. And, what is more, since 1985 the UK has been in receipt of a substantial annual rebate. Just considering that at least 4.5% of our GDP is linked to being in the Single Market, our contribution appears to be money very well spent.

It must also be added that the EU has directly funded major infrastructure projects in less economically advantaged regions of the country such as Cornwall, the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the former industrial heartland of South Wales in order to boost accessibility and diversify economies.

When all of this is taken into account, the questions have to be ‘why ever would we not want to be part of an organisation which has greatly influenced UK prosperity and helped the country to restore its strength and influence following years of decline and why ever would we not wish to enjoy the closest of links with our geographically closest friends and partners?’

Russell Tanner is a teacher in the South West of England and really doesn’t want to leave the EU.


A foot in the door

Change UK should not exist…yet. When the Independent Group was set up by eleven MPs who left their respective parties in February, the plan was to establish a new political party during the late summer or autumn months, alongside a UK-wide policy roadshow. No one doubted the difficult task of opening the door on the closed world of British party politics, but never before had the need seemed so urgent. At the time the Liberal Democrats were on a run of polls showing them at 5 or 6%, Labour was mired in antisemitism and division over Leave/Remain, and the Conservatives were split over their leadership and increasingly under the influence of the European Research Group. Brexit loomed at the end of March, and of course no-one expected the UK to be involved in May’s European Elections, as we were due to have left by that point.

Once those elections became a possibility and then a probability, plans were accelerated. With almost no staff, little funding and of course no members, within a matter of two weeks Change UK was registered with the Electoral Commission and a team of 73 candidates was pulled together from well over three thousand applicants. No political party has ever been put together, from scratch, and contested a national election within a month. It was bound to be a very bumpy ride.

There was no honeymoon period. Other political parties were never going to give us an easy ride and it’s not the job of the media to make up for the deficiencies of a hurried campaign. Had there been a slick and well-organised campaign, the criticism would have been that Change UK was all style and no substance. The logo and branding were not well received (though if this is your basis for making a choice from the political options available, I’m seriously worried about your judgement). And the manifesto…well, actually the manifesto was very good, no-one I know had a bad word to say about it and as a candidate I was proud to stand on it. But the critics pounced. You would be hard pressed to find any media outlet that hadn’t written the political obituary of Change UK before a vote had even been counted. And these things have a habit of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

At the start of the campaign, in London and the South East at least, Change UK was polling in the high teens, enough perhaps to secure three or four seats, which would have been an incredible achievement for a party just a few weeks old. However, the local elections, which Change UK could not have contested, intervened. The endorsement of Change UK for Remain parties in the local elections was probably not the main reason the Lib Dems and Greens did well, but it certainly didn’t do them any harm.

Coming out of the locals, the Lib Dems were then well placed to claim they were the home of the Remain vote, the challengers to Farage and the most likely to win seats. If there is one thing the Lib Dems do very well it is framing an election as a two-horse race and squeezing other parties out fairly ruthlessly. It’s how they have survived.

So the narrative of “you are splitting the vote” was repeated again and again on social media and, in many of the Change UK campaign events I attended by some who were known Lib Dem activists. In the complicated and unfamiliar Party List and D’Hondt system used, framing it in traditional Westminster-style terms enabled the Lib Dems to persuade many who were supportive of Change UK to vote tactically, as of course they did with some 22% of the Labour vote and a smaller but still significant chunk of the Conservative vote.

Tactical voting websites of varying degrees of independence chimed in with near-blanket support for the Lib Dems (the Greens were justifiably aggrieved at recommendations to vote Lib Dem in regions were there were Green held seats but no Lib Dems) although Remain Voter advocated backing Change UK in the capital and South East. How many voters followed their advice and switched to Change UK from Lib Dem or other parties in those regions, and how many Change UK supporters voted Lib Dem around the UK, is as yet unknown and may remain so.

So when the results were in Change UK got, as predicted, just under 4% of the vote nationally and no MEPs. Despite the political obituaries, squeeze messaging, campaign issues and tactical voting recommendations, well over half a million people – 572,000 voters – backed Change UK. That’s more people than voted Green in the 2017 General Election, where the Lib Dems only secured a 7% share.
In my own city of Brighton and Hove, a strongly Remain voting area where the Greens are a major player, Change UK came within a few hundred votes of beating the Conservatives, and scored more than 4500 votes overall. Compared to the most recent General Election in the city, where the Liberal Democrats could only poll around 1350 votes in each of the two (of three) constituencies they contested, it’s a remarkable result for a party just a few weeks old with no members, few activists, no voter ID records, delivery network or campaign structures at all.

Of course now the call from Lib Dem activists is, “Change UK has no future. On less than 5% of the vote you should merge with us.” It’s not an argument I’ve seen them use against the Green Party, who have consistently polled in the 2 to 5% range for years. No-one has said the Greens should cease to exist as a distinct party, and they have been around since the 1970s. Across Europe, many parties have existed for years on similar vote shares, making a contribution to political life and giving voters positive options rather than the lesser of two or three evils to choose from. It’s the multi-party democracy the Lib Dems have always claimed to support, but one that struggles under our electoral system.

On the most recent figures available, the Greens have around 40,000 members, the Lib Dems around 100,000 and the Conservatives 125,000 (we know that these figures will have increased with tens of thousands of likely Brexit supporters joining the Tories to vote in their leadership election). Change UK has around 100,000 registered supporters, and if that number translates into members (granted that’s a medium to large sized if) then it would place it very much alongside the established parties and ahead of the Greens in terms of membership.

Labour is in ever more serious trouble over it’s Brexit position, the Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation over antisemitism and the Corbyn leadership. Senior figures continue to jump ship or be thrown overboard. The Conservatives, under the gravitational pull of the Brexit Party and the ERG, faces a potential exodus of moderate members no less damaging than Labour.

The Lib Dems have emerged resurgent after their successful European elections, having been written off themselves earlier in the year for failing to capitalise on the growing Remain movement and encumbered by the baggage of Coalition, and for some having been the party that first mooted an in/out referendum on Europe under Nick Clegg. They are, historically, a repository for protest votes from both main parties but never a contender for government alone, not for over a century. Are they the answer to the broken political system or just another part of it?

Brexit has shattered Britain’s political consensus and exploded the fractures in both main political parties. With a Conservative leadership election, the fate of Britain in Europe and potentially a General Election all ahead of us in the coming months, it is a brave person who says they know for sure how things will develop or resolve. Change UK enters this turbulent period with 11 MPs, a base of 5% support, a potential membership of up to 100,000, and a team of former candidates keen to carry on and help build something that those thousands of people want and believe in.

Those eleven MPs showed immense courage in starting this new grouping, this new party, at huge risk to their seats and careers. They were the ones who finally answered the call from so many who said, when is someone going to do something? The need is still urgent, has not changed. Populism and ideology threaten from left and right.

Whether it is alone, or a component part of something else, Change UK is here and is just getting started. Has it kicked the door off the frame of British politics after just a few weeks of existence? No. With everyone pushing hard from the other side it has, very slightly, opened that door, put a foot in the gap and given people the chance to go in and change how our politics is conducted. I’m in, are you?

Warren Morgan is the former Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council


The disenfranchisement of EU citizens has revealed the impending crisis of Brexit

In an advanced democratic nation, an election should be straightforward, yet thousands of stories are now emerging across the UK of bureaucratic failures, administrative mistakes and simple human errors leading to up to 2 million EU citizens losing their right to vote. That the government hoped these elections wouldn’t be held is no excuse for not having prepared for them properly. 

Many of the issues stem from the declaration form by which non-British and non-Irish EU citizens have to confirm the country in which they will vote in the European Parliament elections. Although a theoretical requirement since 2001, the declaration has never before been required. Why? No record can be found online or elsewhere of a large-scale publicity campaign by either local or national government letting people know of the change. Why? To compound the difficulties, the deadline for submission of declarations was 7 May 2019; the same day the government confirmed that the UK would take part in the elections. There has been a clear breach of Article 12 of Council Directive 1993/109, which requires States to inform citizens in good time of the requirements necessary for them to exercise their right to vote. 

Change UK is supporting calls for a public inquiry. The inquiry must establish how many EU Citizens were denied the right to vote, covering not only those who fulfilled all the requirements but those who did not get sufficient information or time to be able to do so. It must discover why warnings from MPs were ignored. And it needs to establish the councils that sent out the necessary information and declaration forms and those that did not. 

The inquiry needs to establish why it was necessary to have such a long period, 12 working days, between Council receipt of the declaration and voting day. Could declarations not have been signed before voting at the polling station and then sent electronically to the EU member state of which the individual held citizenship? It needs to understand why this declaration has never been needed before and indeed why it is needed at all when, for example, it is not required of British people living in Ireland, and Irish people living in Britain.  The inquiry needs to look at whether use of apps, such as those developed by the 3 million campaign, which allowed electronic signatures on the declaration were in fact banned by the Electoral Commission (EC), and if so why. And it needs to understand, if use of “Declaration via app” was banned, why the EC said voters using such apps “may be unable to vote”, rather than “will be unable to vote”?

If an administrative process can result in EU citizens losing their right to vote, the implications for the 3 million EU citizens having to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme are grave. Will the children of EU citizens be wrongly denied school places because their parents’ right to live in the UK has become a clerical error? Will NHS care be refused to people whose form wasn’t processed by the right department on time? Are we in fact seeing the latest incarnation of a hostile environment policy in the UK?

As well as the profound worries of EU citizens living in Britain, these problems give us a glimpse of the chaos that will rip through the country if civil servants, schools, the NHS, the police, ports, security services and every other part of our vast state infrastructure are made to “deliver Brexit.” Brexit is an impending crisis for the country. No Deal Brexit is simply unconscionable. The European elections are over, but the fight to save Britain from Brexit must go on.

Gavin Esler, Jan Rostowski, Carole Tongue, Annabel Mullin, Karen Newman, Nora Mulready, Jessica Simor, Haseeb Ur-Rehman, former Change UK MEP candidates for London. 


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Democracy is a Fragile Thing

Apologies in advance.

This won’t be a glib column. This column won’t give you a chuckle, a guffaw or even a rye smile. This is a plea for all of us to wake up and smell the rising tide of excrement that will engulf us as we become inured to its stench. Democracy is drowning.

Across the world, the norms and guard rails are falling. Trump and his enablers are permitted and permissioned to lie about the content and conclusions of the Mueller report and defy the constitutional oversight function of Congress. This subversion of democracy is met with a cheer by his supporters and weary resignation by his detractors. In Turkey, Erdogan’s loyalist candidate was defeated in Istanbul’s mayoral election so the result was simply annulled. It may be the last free election the people of Turkey will ever have. Thus, a strongman becomes stronger. And that is just this week.

Across the world, the unscrupulous have noticed that we have hardly noticed.

We in the UK cannot look at such outrages against democracy and feel any smug sense of superiority. It is happening here too. The purveyors of populism- formerly known as mob rule, totalitarianism, juntas etc.- aren’t swanning around Westminster in faux military uniforms or shooting dissenters in the streets (yet) but, we can no longer lull ourselves into thinking that Britain isn’t heading that way.

The institutions we have always trusted to act in the national interest are no longer doing so. They have forgotten that defending truth, the essential ingredient of democracy, is hard. We have allowed truth to become relative and this was how we got Brexit. This is how one of our great political parties became institutionally racist. This is how we’ll follow the same path as the countries we mock and pity.

We have simply stopped demanding truth and, in part, this is because we have forgotten what the word means. The social media marketplace is very busy and those who tweet and retweet the loudest get our attention. Opinion has replaced fact, and pile-ons and outright threats have drowned out those who oppose the voice of the mob. We were so busy lauding free speech that we missed the point when lies became a twisted received wisdom.

Accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are ‘a smear’ to those who pay no attention to demonstrable evidence. Corbyn’s fanclub can easily dismiss information that doesn’t fit their chosen narrative. The same silos of selective truth have fooled Labour voters into believing that the Party supports both Leave and Remain even though they are diametrically opposed positions. John McDonnell can pose with a beaming smile in front of hammer and sickle flags, with IRA terrorists and apologists for every architect of every failed totalitarian state but a proportion of the faithful will dismiss the evidence of their own eyes. They have wilfully blinded themselves to truth. They will not defend democracy because they are ignorant of history and too willing do enable demagogues.

Sometimes the truth that undergirds democracy is difficult to quantify and this is one of the biggest dangers facing twentieth century politics in a twenty-first century digital age. We cannot put exact numbers to what effect lies have. We can never know for sure how many voted Leave on the basis of Facebook posts financed by shadowy sources and driven by algorithms to hit their targets.  It should frighten every one of us that our government is too terrified to even investigate what was patently election fraud and interference. Leave won with the help of Russian money and troll farms and some are simply parroting the line that democracy must be respected. Yet, it was precisely a digitally driven lack of respect for democracy that they now defend. Our politics is still on a setting that would comprehend ballot stuffing or intimidating voters at the polls but Brexit happened with keyboards. The cyber-manipulators won the Brexit vote and put Trump in office and they will keep doing it. Our current leaders are too cowardly and too craven to admit that they have given in to a geopolitical bully. They will not defend democracy because it is too hard.

Our press should have performed its duty to hold the powerful to account during such a grave national moment but it too has failed. Healthy democracies cannot function without investigators and interrogators and ours did not do its job. Our press has lost the stomach for calling out those who lie. In part, our national temperament of civility is to blame. Lie is an ugly word. Most of our press is still under the assumption that interviewees who are evasive will be perceived to be lying and no further judgement on their part is necessary. Alas, we are in an age of confirmation bias and relative truth. The Brexiteers and their sunny uplands came across as victims of press intimidation to the already credulous. The rest of us were left shouting ‘call them out on their lies’ to no avail. With a few notable exceptions, our broadcasters are duelling with swords against liars with machine guns.

This supine press coverage is also the responsibility of the individuals who make editorial decisions. Public perceptions were formed by those decisions to all of our cost. It may be that the metropolitan bias of some editors compelled them to take their vox pops almost exclusively in working mens’ clubs and market stalls in deprived parts of the country. Angry makes for better television. It was a preemptive response to an accusation of partiality that had not been levelled. That would be a charitable explanation. However, it created a national narrative that discontent was widespread and attributed to the EU while rarely allowing pro-EU voices the same opportunity. The risk in this is that an artificial narrative of ‘the will of the people’ has been created. They will not defend democracy because it is less exciting than the angry mob.

We have arrived at a point where politicians can say with a straight face ‘We had a referendum and that’s it. We won. End of story’. We have laid the groundwork for an inevitable future leader with no respect for norms who can use our unwritten constitution to say ‘We had a general election. We won. End of story.’. Democracy is in peril when politicians make the argument that more democracy is anti-democratic. We are living in Orwellian times when we don’t fight kicking and screaming for untainted campaigns and when our press operates without discrimination in favour of facts- as if all sides of a debate are equal. Democracy is a fragile thing. It is worth defending for our children and their children. And we are failing.

Rebecca Strom Trenner is a writer in the moments when she stops screaming into a pillow in a darkened room.

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Change UK launch campaign as the Remain Alliance

It was great to see so many supporters of ‘Change UK - The Independent Group’ pack the venue as the new party launched their campaign for the European elections in Bristol.

Newly selected MEP candidates travelled far and wide to deliver a loud and clear message that Change UK would support a People’s Vote and campaign to remain and reform the EU. And what a diverse bunch they were too. All driven by the desire to fix Britain’s broken politics, former Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green, and SNP members, activists and candidates - and people who have no political background at all, came together to stand under one banner and represent the party as a clear, unambiguous remain alliance. Good also to see the selection of candidates is gender balanced 50/50 men and women.

But here at Change Politics, we’re especially excited to announce that one of the selected MEP candidates is our very own co-editor Ollie Middleton who is third on the list in the South West. Congratulations Ollie!

We wish all the selected candidates the best of luck as they embark on their campaigns.

Here’s a few highlights from the speeches:

Interim Leader of Change UK – The Independent Group, Heidi Allen MP, said:

“I am very proud to lead this team of candidates. They come from all walks of life and from right across the country: teachers, nurses, carers, ex-members of our Armed Forces, public sector, private sector, people from political backgrounds and people who are new to politics. This is the home of the Remain Alliance.”

Group Spokesperson for Change UK – The Independent Group, Chuka Umunna MP, said:

“If, like us, you love our country and believe the UK is kind-hearted, generous in spirit, and open to new ideas; if you are proud of our history but determined to embrace the future; if you believe that key to those things is working internationally through the EU and with others, keeping our seat at the top table – then sign up to support us, campaign with us and, above all, vote for us in the European elections on 23 May.”

Brexit spokesperson for Change UK – The Independent Group, Anna Soubry MP, said:

“Change UK are proud to say that we are the party of the People’s Vote. We are as one in our belief that Brexit must go back to the people for their final say. Unlike Labour, we’re absolutely clear – no backroom deals, no faffing about: we demand a People’s Vote.”

Gavin Esler, who spoke at today’s launch and tops Change UK – The Independent Group’s election list for the London region, said:

“Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg claim to speak for the British people. They do not. They stole our British patriotism – and I want it back. We know Britain is better than the politics of the past. We know that stopping Brexit is the first step to a better Britain. It’s time for a change. It’s time for Change UK.”

Victoria Groulef, who spoke at today’s launch and is number two for Change UK – The Independent Group’s election list for the South East region, said:

“Political change requires guts, determination, resilience and leadership. It would be easy to say ‘I’m sick of politics’ and to walk away. But that’s not my style – and that’s why I’m delighted to be part of this movement that seeks to change politics and our country for good.”

Andrea Cooper, who spoke at today’s launch and tops Change UK – The Independent Group’s election list for the North West, said:

“For many years I have been dedicated to helping young people, and it is young people who stand to gain the most by staying in Europe. It has been clear to me for a while now that the main political parties are letting us down. It is urgent that young people, men and ordinary women like me get out and vote on 23 May for Change UK: the Remain Alliance

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For peace on Britain's streets learn from Liberia

A few months ago I found a ten-inch-long bayonet on the ground in my front garden. I saw it when I was taking my daughters to nursery. As I called the police to report it I shuddered that I live in a city of surging knife crime. Almost three hundred people lost their lives to knife crime in the UK last year. And the major parties offer almost nothing in response. The Conservatives call for more police officers and the return of stop and search. But they fail to significantly reverse police cuts. Law enforcement alone is not enough.  London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan, while seeking to pass the blame to the government for the carnage, trumpets a vague “public health” approach that took ten years to succeed in Glasgow. Thousands more people could be murdered by then. Both parties are floundering.

Johnson Borh from Liberia isn’t floundering. He has developed a programme that is so successful at getting young men out of street violence that it is being rolled out in Chicago. Perhaps the UK should follow suit. An entire generation of young men in Liberia lost their childhoods to 14 years of war. Many now plague the streets of the capital Moravia in gangs with drugs and crime.  Johnson, a former child soldier himself, spent years experimenting with every therapy manual he could find and UN or NGO course to get his ex-comrades off the streets. He developed an eight-week group therapy programme targeted at street gangs, called Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia (STYL). Young men learn techniques to cool their anger. They tell positive stories. They learn how to plan and set goals. They are taught to dress more conventionally.  Then they practice everyday tasks like going to the bank or supermarket where they see they that are treated with respect, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Afterwards, a remarkable number set up small businesses and stay out of crime.

Borh caught the eye of Chicago University’s Professor Chris Blattman, who was researching ex-combatants in Liberia and kept on hearing about STYL. Blattman noticed STYL looked similar to cognitive behaviour therapy used by psychologists in the US to treat aggression and criminal problems. So, he spent three years working with 1,000 Liberian men linked to street gangs in a controlled experiment.  He split the men up at random and put some through STYL and used the others as a control group for comparative purposes. After just the eight weeks of the STYL programme, graduates who also received a $200 cash grant to help set up a business, committed 40% less theft. Blattman was so impressed that he’s now conducting a similar experiment with 8,500 youths in Chicago. He says the key to behavioural change is not just the cognitive behaviour therapy, but also aggressively targeting programme participants and those most at risk of committing crime. He does this by working with hospital emergency departments and local community intelligence of gang networks. On its first iteration in Chicago, violent crime arrests dropped by 20%. It works.

Knife crime in Britain is at its highest ever levels. The pathetic political response is yet one more depressing example of a failed system. Instead, on knife crime, politicians could start by talking to Borh and Blattman.

Chris Coghlan is a former Foreign Office counter terrorism officer and Harvard University public policy graduate. In the 2017 general election he stood as an independent in Battersea for moderate MP’s to split into new centre party. @_chris_coghlan

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Defence Reform – Putting People First

Defence of the realm is the first job of Government. Historically, the Conservative Party has been the party of the forces. However, in recent years, they have been overseeing the decline of people and technology. Labour made great inroads into being the party that invested in and looked after people in the forces, but they have now come under severe scrutiny for a fundamental lack of conviction that they would make difficult decisions of deployment. Having worked in the defence sector for over 20 years, it’s clear to me that the UK Military needs reforming to make it fit for purpose and supportive of the people who serve.

The defence budget (2.1% of GDP) remains opaque. Billions are spent, but for the vast majority, it’s not always clear where the funds go. In order for defence spending to be used effectively, I believe we should be considering a few key things.

Our most immediate threat is not a physical one, it is a virtual one. It is the cyber war that is already well underway. It is the battle of confidence and trust, through state sponsored activity but denied - not too dissimilar to the Cold War. This is perhaps where the UK is now most vulnerable. Where we have been pouring money into very physical programmes, - aircraft, tanks, warships and submarines- other countries without the same resources have poured theirs into cyber capability.

Personnel are the backbone, the essential element of our armed forces. But, too frequently, we to forget about their welfare. We pour money into big ticket equipment (a Challenger 2 tank is approx. £4m each, Eurofighter Typhoon around £68m each, and T45 Destroyer is £1b). Yet we expect our personnel to live in accommodation that is in serious need of repair. Some quarters have been reported with untreated mould and a whole host of other problems. With all the money we spend on equipment, surely we should be spending the money to ensure that the people we expect to operate this equipment are fit to do so.

The other, often overlooked aspect, is the drive that defence puts into engineering and technology development. This has two aspects, the technology development element and the engineering production. There are whole communities that are built upon the development of major engineering elements. For example, Barrow-in-Furness, the place where our Submarines are built and have been for over 100 years. Over 80% of the employees live within 40 miles, and therefore the pay that they receive goes directly into the local community. The submarine builder, BAE Systems is supplied by a supplier network that ranges from companies that produce pieces of plant and machinery, complex control systems, all the way to contractors who bring in specialist expertise. If the submarine fleet were to stop being produced, then it would not only harm our defensive capability, but it would destroy a well-established town.

It’s important to recognise that the defence industry is not simply about war. Very few people want to fight for the sake of it, however there are people in the world that do, and we have a duty to protect our people. But underpinning that is a complex network that pervades many different facets of our lives and our communities.

We should be willing to ask ourselves difficult questions such as:

• Should we be using soldiers on ceremonial duties in guarding the palace? In effect, they are a tourist attraction.

• Should we be outsourcing so much supplier capability when the contracts don’t necessarily delivery the standards we require?

• There are very few theatres where the army, navy and air force work in isolation, they have overlapping capability and, in many cases, replicate capability – should we learn from other countries and have a single defence force?

Defence policy spans multiple different lines of UK infrastructure- health, education, technology development, R&D. Having such a siloed approach means we cannot fill the gaps. We need policy that brings all this together. We must acknowledge the threat, ensuring that technological solutions are coordinated around people and making the forces fit for tomorrow’s threat instead of yesterday’s war.

Fundamentally, military personnel are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. We need to ensure that they are supported, both during their time serving their country, as well as afterwards as they live with the consequences.

Barry Kirby the Managing Director of a Human Science Research and Human Factors Consultancy which delivers into all areas of UK Defence. He was a Labour candidate in the 2017 General election, Labour Police Commissioner Candidate in 2016 and was formerly Deputy Leader of Gloucestershire Labour Group.

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Change UK - Registered and Raring to Go

So it’s happened - The Independent Group’s application to the Electoral Commission has been approved. As Easter nears, how fitting that a brand new party has hatched and is ready to field a range of candidates in the EU elections.

To say ‘Change UK – The Independent Group’ is officially registered and raring to go is somewhat of an understatement. The new party is off with a tremendous bang, having received over of 3,700 applications from people from across the United Kingdom putting themselves forward as candidates in the forthcoming European Elections. It’s great news that so many people have been inspired to hit the streets to unambiguously campaign for a ‘people’s vote’, and take forward a clear message that remaining in and reforming the European Union is what’s best for Britain.

But, as with any piece of positive news, there’s always a downside somewhere; and our thoughts are now with the poor souls who have the unenviable task of sifting through nearly 4,000 applications, as the shortlisting process for Change UK’s MEP selections take shape.

We expect further news on the selection process over the coming days, so keep an eye on Change Politics for any updates.

In the meantime, Change UK’s Interim Leader, Heidi Allen has announced plans to set up a European Election Fighting Fund on their website She hopes this will give ‘Change UK’ a chance to compete financially with the established political parties.

Good luck to all the applicants!

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Britain deserves better than Labour’s muddle and statism

Britain deserves better than Labour’s muddle and statism

The Conservative Party is in a mess. Brexit threatens to rip up its coalition as well as divide its Members of Parliament. Its poll numbers have dived since Prime Minister Theresa May’s failed attempts to pass her exit deal with the European Union. The resurgence of a far right United Kingdom Independence Party and the emergence of Nigel Farage’s new and populist Brexit Party threaten the electoral prospects of a Conservative Party whose voters have over the last few years become increasingly socially conservative and Euro-sceptic.

In this situation, the prospects of the Government either falling from power after further Parliamentary defections, a failure of its Confidence and Supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionists, or the election of a new Prime Minister who then decides to call a snap General Election in search of a mandate, must be fairly high. In that situation, the Conservatives might well lose. Depending on the identity and pose of any new leader, they are in dire danger of handing Downing Street over to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.

The May administration is fundamentally out of line with the modern Britain that is emerging and which will be dominant by the 2040s – young, urban, cosmopolitan, libertarian. Instead, it is: illiberal, closed-minded, resentfully nostalgic and above all committed to a narrow and cramped view of how government as a whole can help people, the Conservatives’ continued advocacy of deep austerity long after its rationale and purpose has passed is a marker of their anger and confusion as political hegemony appears to slip through their fingers. Cameroonian ‘modernisation’ seems long ago.

Labour, though, might not be all that much better – for its plans seem both deeply nostalgic in their own way, as well as extremely vague where really specific details are vital for understanding what policies actually mean. Most of all, their answer to everything is more government regulation, intervention and control. There’s no doubt that Britain would benefit from more direction in many spheres, because across the country, life and space has become gritty, shoddy and sometimes downright cruel. But it’s far from clear that the British state – so bereft of answers over Brexit, and likely to struggle for years to come to terms with its backwash – could cope with finding and implementing any solutions.

Take housing. Here the challenge is to make things better for Britain’s increasingly-important army of private renters. Build as many houses as you may, young people in the South-East and London might never own their own homes. They are simply too expensive. Planning reform is simply too difficult for most politicians to contemplate, and Labour hasn’t dared to touch this topic themselves – the first indication of their lack of joined-up thinking.

Some elements in Labour’s programme are welcome. An emphasis on longer-term tenancies. Preventing eviction without a reason, a policy now mirrored by the Government itself. Higher standards and higher fines for landlords who break them. More social housing (though here there must be the gravest of doubts about Labour’s ability to meet their promises during one Parliamentary term). But their plans for indefinite tenancies bear all the hallmarks of glib policy tourism and a lack of long-term thinking.

The German market, from where they’ve taken their cue, often involves renting just the bricks and mortar themselves: tenants are often expected to do most of the maintenance and even rebuilding work themselves. That’s a quite different situation to that pertaining in England. Nor do Labour seem to have decided whether landlords who are getting into financial trouble, or who want to exit the market altogether, can sell up (as they can under the equivalent Scottish legislation from 2016). This is more than detail. Labour wants to impose rent controls, possibly in the first instance by forbidding above-inflation rent increases on the three-year tenancies they talked about at the last election: holding rent increases to this level indefinitely is a quite different policy. They want to make tenancies indefinite when the types of property involved – and what the concept of ‘tenancy’ means – are quite different in England and Germany. It would be deeply unwise to padlock all landlords to all tenancies forever, whatever their circumstances. And so on.

Or have a look at the railways. Labour promise to nationalise these, and to plough all the money saved from profits back into the industry. But the problem here is twofold. Most of the industry is already nationalised, under the guise of Network Rail, and most of the rail infrastructure is paid for by the taxpayer. Railway operators’ profits are tiny, and for some companies serve as little more than a sweetener and a loss-leading shop window. They average out at little more than two per cent of turnover, and although estimates differ can’t be more than a few hundred million pounds a year. The new trains going into service on the Great Western and East coast lines just this year have cost little shy of £6bn. Nationalisation as the answer to our crowded and confusing railways is like trying to squeeze a bottle of olive oil out of three olives and a bit of bark.

The impression lingers that Labour’s new voters, often Remain-oriented white-collar professionals deeply alienated by May’s antediluvian Conservatives, will hate these policies once they see them in action. Primarily voting Labour to take the pressure off public services and to get rid of the chaotic Tories, they might well end up with a government that wants to interfere everywhere – quite against the outlook and basic philosophy of many who’ve supported them at the polls. In that situation, and without much hope of delivering noticeable change in the very short term, a new Labour government might languish very deeply in the polls.

The real Rosetta Stone of our politics would be an agenda that freed cities, charities, co-operatives and local people to find answers to our grave crises of place, infrastructure and home: neither the Conservatives nor Labour seem likely to decode it as things stand. The field is wide open for others who might.

Glen O’Hara is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Oxford Brookes University. He is the author of a string of books and articles about economic and social policy since 1945, including The Paradoxes of Progress: Governing Post-War Britain, 1951-1973 (2012). He is now beginning a book on the economic and social policies of the Blair governments between 1997 and 2007.

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Fighting Antisemitism

What is antisemitism? It’s racism against Jews. Perhaps because it’s such an old hatred it has transmuted over the years. When Jews were powerless, they were pigs or they had killed Christ. When Jews could make a living, they were money grabbing usurers. When Jews became citizens of the countries in which they lived, they were rootless cosmopolitan fifth columnists with loyalties outside the State. When Jews were not citizens, they were a cancer at the heart of the State, battening on to its citizens. When Jews became citizens of their own country, they were thieving interlopers of the land of others. When Jews were defenceless, they were weak and spineless. When Jews could defend themselves, they were violent oppressors.

You want to hate a Jew, there’s a myth for you.

Like all stereotypes, these things are nonsense. Of course, people being what they are, particular examples of all these things can be found. Like all racists, antisemites desperately want to believe that a particular example proves the case against all thirteen million of us.

Hence the IHRA definition – an attempt to nail down what antisemitism is. As organisations of good faith recognise it seeks to track the idea that antisemitism mutates. It’s been the subject of both honest and dishonest criticism. The honest criticism is that the examples it offers blur the difference between political criticism of Israel and racism. My view of that is that we’re not dealing with fine academic distinctions here: you can be as brutal as you like about an Israeli government of any stripe and still not attack the right of Jews to have what Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and Buddhists have – a state. If you feel a need to go further then restrain yourself. Your right to tread the margin of political criticism isn’t as important as the need to avoid racism. The dishonest criticism is why anti-Zionism has become a convenient way of attacking Jews without the stigma that goes with racism. We’re not here to make people like that feel good about themselves.

Antisemitism has proliferated in Labour in recent years. There doesn’t seem to me to be much argument there. First, it is what the Jewish Community overwhelmingly thinks. There are only 300,000 of us in the UK. We’re virtually united on this (the polls show something over 85%). The outliers are very loud (and the media don’t half love them – Jews is news as the saying has it), but they are a tiny group. By all Macpherson reasoning, that’s the end. What’s more the Equality and Human Rights Commission is currently deciding whether to investigate Labour. That’s astonishing: an independent body contemplating investigating the UK’s largest political party for antisemitism.

Why has it proliferated? Hmm... In my view there are two causes. The first is that the left, having finally obtained control over Labour, is acting out its ideology. Its ideology is that Israel is the USA’s greatest ally (dubious), and that the USA is always wrong and evil. I regard that view as bonkers but it is the only explanation for, for example, the constant focus on discrimination in Israel (apartheid evil!), the comparative silence on persecution in “neutral” countries like China (currently detaining over one million Muslims without trial), and the positive denial of the persecution of Muslims in countries opposed to the US (Kosovo).

The second cause is that Corbyn has “green-lighted” what was previously shameful. For these purposes it isn’t necessary to discuss whether Corbyn is an antisemite himself (my own view is that he is, like so many members of the upper-middle class of his generation, a polite xenophobe). He has a media savvy team. They know that Labour councillors, Labour MP’s and the Labour leader have gone beyond the bounds of acceptability. They know what Labour activists on social media are saying. They know that allegations of Jews “weaponizing” antisemitism – that is to say inventing or exaggerating it to attack Corbyn - are rife. They know Jews are being dismissed as not worth listening to because we are not honest about our own persecution. They know that this isn’t acceptable by previous standards of honest conversation. But they do nothing. Sure, occasionally Corbyn denounces antisemitism with his usual “and all other forms of racism” line, (so that Jews don’t get uppity and regard themselves as a special case). But nothing is said about these specific conduct issues. Jews are not worth it.

That may be an electoral calculation. It may be a personal one. But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is the policy of the leader and those who surround him – and whose past writings and behaviour frequently exhibit the same conclusions. And, once you let it go, people will do it.

That’s amplified by the shambles of the Labour disciplinary system. Every time a particular case is publicly aired, the punishment is increased. Williamson, Hatton, Bibby have all been the subject of proper action only when the improper action first mooted was subjected to public scrutiny. That’s a horrendous indictment of those doing the job. And, sadly, it’s amplified by the silence on the back benches. We know that many backbenchers are sympathetic. We know that we aren’t sexy. We know that defending us leads to trouble and deselection. But we still feel abandoned – and betrayed. I don’t believe the Jewish community will trust Labour again for a generation.

Why do I fight it? No government anywhere, at any time, has ever served all its people properly whilst discriminating against some of them. Hatred is infectious and it blights everything it sees. Standing by simply isn’t an option. This country took my grandparents in. It is the closest we could then come to equality. It permitted us access. Not as if we were native, but more than we got anywhere else. But more than that, it did not hate us. It didn’t subject us to pogroms. We could get on with our lives. We displaced and unaccepted Jews knew that wasn’t complete fairness. But we also knew we could live with it. Since then, the UK has blossomed. It is truly concerned about equality. It strives to fairness. It acknowledges that it fails but it keeps trying. That, ultimately, is a vision I recognise as wanting good for all. why wouldn’t you fight for it?

Simon Myerson QC practices from Byrom St Chambers, Manchester and St Paul’s Chambers, Leeds. He has sat as a part time judge since 2001. He was chair of the Union of Jewish Students 1984-85. He was a member of the Labour Party until 2016 having joined as a teenager.

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On Political Anger

We TIGgers are a sunny bunch. Our MPs can be seen eating together, laughing together, snapping group selfies. Best Buds 4eva! They turn their shining countenances on the warring tribes of Westminster and declare ‘Not for us your internecine scraps. We reject your factional ways and recognise your compositing as compost. Your left and right wings may be in a flap but we prefer ours with lemon and herb.’

Whilst other, less temperate parties rage and spit and invoke by-election as a curse upon our tiny corner of the House, our happy band carries on. The tune is mild and sweet. It is full of harmony and counterpoint while all around blast Death Metal turned up to 11.

As TIG activists, we have gravitated towards this new project, in part, because it has a quality we missed in politics- collegiality, consensus, compromise- in the surrounding stormy seas (C what I did there?).

However, an essential element in political parties is passion. Parties want change. Parties desire the betterment of the country. We long for a reason to go out on rainy days to knock on doors and hand out leaflets. We relish debates with doubters who might come around to our cause. We organise, we rally, we advocate.

And we risk being political blancmange.

We need some anger. Maybe not the spittle-flecked variety of the Tankie/Wanky/Milli left with its raised fist. Not the fortress-Britain-weekend warrior type either. It’s one thing to quote Shakespeare and Tennyson but quite another to understand them. Maybe we’re in need of a new political pique.

Which ever side we came from, we’re all pretty sure about what straw broke the camel’s back for us. To mix a religious metaphor, as a Jewish turkey, I wasn’t going to vote for Christmas with Corbyn. Equally, given that we don’t know how many shopping days we have before our goose is cooked (or turkey, or nut roast or whatever you eat), the sound of the escape hatch to our nearest neighbours slamming shut fills me with dread. Corbyn to the left of me, Brexit to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with TIG.

How long can we go on being so irritatingly nice? We’re really good at saying what we’re for (absent any actual policies), but, we need to get a lot louder about what we’re against if we hope to rally the electorate to put a cross in our box. Our pleasantness will prove an own goal (see what I did there?) if we don’t whip up a bit of righteous indignation.

The British electorate, save party activists, doesn’t usually vote out of a sense of optimism or conviction. We vote to boot the bastards out. We vote to give someone a good kicking. The Remain campaign completely missed that our political choices are often a reflection of dissatisfaction and malcontentedness rather than a series of thought-through policy judgements. Our first past the post system creates governments that outstay their welcome, become sclorotic, corrupt and unresponsive. And then we vote for the other guys. So, it’s Brexit or Lexit, racism or racism.

We need a new and improved brand of anger, an anger all our own; principled, determined, moral. We need to outsell the other guys in the marketplace of ideas. Brexit is theft from future generations, public services must be improved for the benefit of all and policy better be based on hard numbers and evidence. We need to call out the other guys when they lie about polls and when they obfuscate about protecting bigots. When they offer up their identikit surrogates to the media, we need to challenge them and not let their doggerel slide. Ignorance doesn’t sound better delivered loudly and quickly by the same faces on every channel. If the electorate is to trust us, we need to hit back.

We keep saying #politicsisbroken. It is past time to say ‘We will fix it NOW’. We should be past delivering the message with a sigh of resignation. We have got to stop apologising for leaving the parties that caused havoc on our nation. We don’t need to fear frightening voters who are already trapped between platoons in battle dress. We’re so consumed with being likeable that we’ve forgotten that this is a fight and voters want someone scrapping on their side.

It’s time to get out there and let rip. It’s time for a new and improved political anger.

Rebecca Strom Trenner is a writer in the moments when she stops screaming into a pillow in a darkened room.

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David Hirsh: My Labour Party Resignation

Personally, I have had enough of being humiliated by antisemitism in the Labour movement. I have fought it for years, in the student movement in the academic unions and in the Labour Party. I won’t subject myself to it any longer.

Politically, the most important thing to me at the moment is democracy. I mean by that our democratic states in which we look after each other and our civil society in which we are free to do what we choose.

I mean the principle that human beings are in a fundamental sense of equal value, and so opposition to discrimination against people on the basis of their designated race, gender, sexuality, religion or nation is a fundamental principle.

I mean a free economy, within a legal framework which nurtures creativity, vibrancy and efficiency and which also which sets out terrains in which enterprises agree not to compete: like health and safety, holiday pay, maternity leave, equality and workers’ rights. A democratically calibrated and constrained free economy is the most successful way of combating inequality.

I mean international trade, cosmopolitan institutions and universal friendship; I mean democracy and democratic rights and values across the world; and solidarity with those fighting for them.

I mean a high quality and efficient National Health Service; I mean excellent education available to all; and I mean a safety net which looks after people when they are unable to look after themselves.

I mean freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and free trade unions.

I mean the democratic right to pursue happiness and to make one’s own relationships and networks.

Antisemitism threatens Jews but it is also always an indicator of the ascendancy of an anti-democratic political culture in any community in which it is tolerated.

I am afraid of the rise of populist politics which I understand as a set of radical threats to democracy as described above. Populist movements try to harness the politics of fury and resentment for the political advancement of those who assume the right to speak for ‘the people’ and to treat those they don’t like as ‘enemies of the people’.

Populism replaces debate and respect for knowledge with an essentialism which designates people as enemies not because of what they say or do but because of who they are.

The Corbyn movement, which is well entrenched in the Labour Party, is such a movement. The Brexit movement which is well entrenched in the Tory Party, and in the Corbyn faction too, is also a populist movement. Both Labour and the Tories are trying to ride the tiger of populism and are prepared to risk British democracy and prosperity to do so. The tiger will maul them and it will maul us all in the end.

Jihadi Islamism and other fundamentalists are also radical critiques of democracy of a related kind.

Populism sees nothing of value in existing society and it promises to tear everything down and to begin again from zero; experience shows that it is easier to destroy than to create.

I want to be part of a movement which defends democratic principles, as outlined above, and which defends us against the populist threats, also as outlined above.

This is not a conservative manifesto. There is nowhere near enough democracy in our world. The defence and creation of democratic states and movements is a programme for radical change; and for radical change in what people are enthusiastic about. And it is urgent.

There are many other issues which people take seriously and with justification; the threat of climate change for example. Addressing these requires democracy. Without that, we’re finished. But within that framework we can decide, together, what needs to be done.

I do not want Jeremy Corbyn to be the next Prime Minister; he is so wedded to antisemitic politics that he has been quite unable to address the antisemitic culture which he imported into the Labour mainstream. And that is linked to his anti-democratic worldview. While Corbyn himself may not be around for very long as leader, his politics and his culture will be, in my judgement.

Some have argued that if democratic people, not least democratic Jews, leave the Labour Party then this will allow free reign to those who embrace antisemitic and proto-totalitarian politics.

Yes, if we leave, that is what will happen. But it happens when we don’t leave too. So now people who consider themselves socialists will have to take responsibility for the culture in their own movement. Because I’m done. And I think most other Jews are done too.

David Hirsh is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London and author of 'Contemporary Left Antisemitism'.

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Could the European Elections be a Breakthrough for Change UK?

In a competitive field, there is one election that could be argued is the most significant of the past decade. Not the one that delivered the Coalition, nor the one that made Corbyn Labour leader, nor the one that deprived May of her majority, nor even the Referendum itself.

I’d argue that it was the 2014 elections to the European Parliament changed British politics in a way we are yet to fully understand. If they were to take place, the unexpected European Parliament elections of 2019 could have an equally seismic impact.

Prior to 2014, Europe was, according to all polling data, one of the least important issues for the British electorate. Fewer than 10% of voters rated EU membership as one of their top concerns during the decade running up to 2014, according to polling data from Ipsos MORI. At times during the 2000s it barely registered at all.

Yet somehow, whether through disillusionment with the main parties, concerns over migration or through other factors, UKIP topped the poll held on May 22nd 2014, winning just under 27% of the vote and 24 of the 73 seats up for election. Labour came second with 24%, and the Tories third with 23%.

Looking at the well over four million voters who had backed Nigel Farage’s party, Cameron made the fateful decision to pledge a referendum of European Union membership in his manifesto for the following year’s General Election. He knew that should even a fraction of those voters desert the Tories in the General Election he would be replaced in No 10 by Ed Miliband within months. The rest, as they say, is history. And of course, the infuriating, divided and chaotic present.

The elections held in May 2014 were held on the same day as delayed local elections, and saw a turnout of 35%. European elections traditionally have not prompted great enthusiasm and have been used as a proxy for Westminster battles. Being held under a fairly complex system of proportional representation, there was always the possibility of the two-party duopoly being broken. The Greens have almost managed it before.

Everything has changed since that spring five years ago when no-one had heard of the term “Brexit”. Two general elections, a bitterly divisive referendum, parties strained and fractured over Europe as never before, EU membership moving to the top of the public agenda, news bulletins and daily conversation.

Now, Parliament is deadlocked. Six million have signed a petition demanding Britain’s departure from the European Union is halted, a million people have converged on the capital calling for the people to have the final say on what happens next, and our political system has been exposed as woefully inadequate at dealing with this issue.

On the march, I listened to people talk about how the main parties had failed them. They saw the system as broken and in desperate need of something new. Polling shows little enthusiasm for either the Tories or Labour, for Jeremy Corbyn or any of those manoeuvring to replace Theresa May.

This week, we will find out if there is to be a long delay to Brexit which will force the UK to at least prepare to elect a new cohort of MEPs this May. What if the astonishing breakthrough and devastating impact of UKIP last time could be mirrored by a new and pro-European political party, harnessing the energy of the people who signed that petition and marched on Parliament? The European Elections would offer an opportunity far greater than a General Election for that new party to make a big impression.

Voters would not be electing a government. Under proportional representation, their votes could be cast positively and risk-free, without the need for tactical considerations. They could give their verdict on how Brexit has been handled and how the two main parties are doing. They could cast a positive vote for a positive alternative.

Polling in the past week has shown half of those who voted Conservative or Labour in the 2017 General Election may not vote for them again. We could be witnessing a fundamental re-alignment of British party politics.

The election of ten, fifteen or even twenty MEPs would win the new party a seat at the table, broadcast time, resources and representation that would immediately establish it as a force in British and European politics. It would create a political gravitational pull that others could not escape or ignore.

Still, if a deal is passed the European elections may not happen. The new party is not yet registered to contest them. Time is incredibly short and the odds are stacked against it happening. Yet we live in a time where, politically, anything seems possible and the unpredictable outcome seems so often to emerge the winner.

For The Independent Group, this might be the unexpected opportunity to change politics in a way that five years ago, five months ago, no-one could have foreseen.

Warren Morgan is the Independent Councillor for East Brighton and former Labour Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.

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When You’re In a Brexit Hole, Invite a Bigger Shovel

I’m watching the Sky News chyron scroll past. Jeremy Corbyn says he ‘looks forward’ to talks with PM. Yeah, I’ll bet.

There are several possibilities of motives and outcomes attached to this bipartisan volt face. May might have had a sudden epiphany that the frothing, raving ERG really didn’t have the best interests of the nation at heart and, golly-oh-gee-oh-gosh, it might be time to engage with somebody more congenial. I mean, if you find yourself stuck with a group who can’t be trusted for a few hours not to trash talk you to the extent that you need to bag and tag their phones like a prison intake officer, you need new friends. May’s cabinet has already printed out her P45. She didn’t have much reason to keep people-pleasing the tin foil helmet brigade.

May might also have come to the belated conclusion that, her fate sealed, she didn’t fancy being THE WORST PRIME MINISTER IN BRITISH HISTORY EVER. Modest by nature, that honorific had to hurt. So, when your predecessor hands you a shit sandwich and your mates won’t share it, best look for someone who doesn’t mind a bit of muck on his hands. Don’t forget the marmalade, Jez!

The other possibility is that May has played a blinder. So desperate is Corbyn to look Prime Ministerial that she has appealed to that vanity to lure him into taking the shit sandwich, eating it and waving the wrapper at a grateful nation from the doorway of the Brussels flight and announcing Brexit in our time. May can watch the display from the tarmac with her hamper of chicken lasagne and boiled spuds.

From a strategic point of view, if you are pushing Brexit with the zeal of a convert, it is pretty obvious to team up with the guy who has spent his undistinguished career calling the EU a capitalist club and dreaming of the day we could leave it and NATO and the ECJ and all the other institutions with initials. May and Corbyn can sit down, have a cup of tea and agree that the EU is a bit crap. Job done!

The only ‘Peter Bone’ of contention might be to whom we attribute this mutually assured Brexit. May is probably banking on spreading the blame for what she must surely know is an extinction level event for the economy. If Corbyn’s fingerprints are on it too, posterity might chose a kinder label for her. Or, she might have surmised that LOTO is too thick to realise that he’s just been offered the wheel in the getaway car. And a shit sandwich.

What Corbyn derives, other than legitimacy for his deeply held conviction - in complete opposition to most of the PLP and party membership, his party manifesto and the founding Labour principle of internationalism - is everybloodything he wants. Corbyn must have been cock-a-hoop to get that call from Number 10. No more constructive ambiguity. No more shrugging at his MPs who enquire why the whip doesn’t apply to his mates. No more will he have to mumble People’s Vote under his breath after his blather about jobs first, protecting workers’ rights and how he could do Brexit soooooooo much better than the other lot. He can just pitch up, cross his arms, scowl  and leave safe in the knowledge that Brexit will happen and when it’s a national nightmare he can claim that it would have all been fine and dandy if it had been called Lexit. He can be Prime Minister of whatever survives the wreck. If that’s cockroaches and Seamus Milne, he’ll take it.

Corbyn’s fondest wish all along has been to be released from the EU to create his workers paradise built on debt and products we can’t trade, his New Jerusalem without Jews, his corrective and pure Marxist vision made real in an industrialised Britain as its author intended. And the EU wouldn’t have any right to interfere. Currency controls. Tick! Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Gone! Puppet editors installed to ensure friendly media coverage. Huzzah!

Who needs a People’s Vote when you are the embodiment of the will of the People!  Am I right?

Really, all that has happened over the past twenty-four hours is that poor, lonely, embattled Theresa May has made common cause with the one man with less olfactory acuity than she. Not only will Corbyn share that shit sandwich, he’ll offer May his allotment shovel to keep digging for more victory.

Rebecca Strom Trenner

The Inside Story of Labour’s Failed Remain Campaign

In my day job, I help to design resilient systems delivering support services for children. I spend a lot of time asking service leaders ‘if not you, then who?’

Every good system needs an alternative. The two-party political system is based on the idea of the alternative. No matter how venal, self- destructive or self-indulgent a failing government or new opposition becomes, there should always be one decent option. Just as a good opposition makes a bad government better, a good government makes the opposition get their act together.

Only our generation have the unique bad luck to live under a horrible government and a worse opposition; but then, only our generation is unlucky enough to suffer under the imperative of Brexit.

Unlike other key-seat Labour PPCs from 2015 I left the party comparatively quickly. It hasn’t been a recent thing for me and I don’t want to imply that it has. Partly this was bad luck – I stood in a hard- left seat two years before many of the attitudes I found so distasteful were replicated across country. Anti-Semitism, misogyny and bullying became inextricable from the Labour Party. As Jess Phillips said, Labour values risked becoming ‘just a fucking rose.’ Partly, I left Labour because I thought it should be more than just a fucking rose.

And then, I worked closely with the Leader’s Office in role as National Engagement Lead at Britain Stronger in Europe.

Like many of the campaign directors working for Remain, I had signed with my campaigning experience in UKIP strongholds in the Midlands and South Yorkshire gained during the 2015 election. In fact, I joined Britain Stronger in Europe before it had any infrastructure, or even a contact address.

All I could think to do was to ring Labour Headquarters in London and to make clear that I wanted to volunteer in line with party policy, which was to remain in the EU. After some initial confusion, they connected me to a mobile number – for Brendan Chilton, the Labour councillor who worked with UKIP to establish and fund Labour Leave!

Remain was and is the fight of my life. I fought on the grounds of the wrong that it does to already deprived communities, but it wasn’t anything like the campaign we’re now seeing described on television or in books and written in collaboration with a handful of the people who led Leave. There was no honorable ground war of TV producer’s imaginations. Contrary to popular belief, Britain Stronger In Europe tracked almost no campaign activity from Vote Leave at all. At the time, it was creepy. Now it makes sense. Vote Leave didn’t need people or the rudiments of a traditional campaign, they had illegal data scraping through Aggregate IQ, and with it, the ability to speak directly to a comparatively small number of voters. They decided the outcome of the referendum.

We usually have a good idea of who the undecided voters will be in any campaign. They are often women, often parents, people who are genuinely unsure and prefer to make a political decision on the merits of the evidence accessible to them at the time. They are people who listen, who consult those around them, who read a paper and are very likely to use social media.

The people who are best reached and persuaded by what we call a ground campaign. After all, a Facebook ad is persuasive, but someone from your community caring enough to knock on your door and share why they believe in remain? That matters. In my region, and in all the swing regions, the towns where the referendum was decided were traditionally Labour towns. Given how Leave campaigned and the weaknesses of Remain, the only thing that could have turned the result around was the intervention that the cross-party campaign was designed around- the prospect of a national Labour-led ground campaign.

I attended Britain Stronger In Europe training sessions nine months before the referendum day where we talked about the result standing or falling by the strength of the ground campaign. We all know what happened instead. The Labour leadership decided they wouldn’t be involved in the dirty work of a campaign that involved working with other parties. We know how Corbyn refused to share platforms, went on holiday and now even today says that he might back leave in a second referendum.

As its leaders have said, Labour’s Remain campaign was a cardboard initiative undermined at every turn by the leadership. At HQ, we begged for the support that had been promised and held regular meetings with the team directly around the Labour leader. In my local constituency in Derby, Labour In would campaign on one side of the Ram statue next to Westgate so that Stronger In could campaign on the other. We stood together, but if someone from Labour regional office came by, we could pretend we didn’t. It didn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t have been that way.

Today, 5,000 jobs are at risk in the constituency where we campaigned on either side of that statue. It doesn’t have to be that way either.

Labour has failed as the opposition that we have so badly needed for the past three years. They have failed to answer the question. If not you, then who? We needed TIG or something like it so badly. This bad system needs an alternative.

Kate Godfrey is a former Labour key seat PPC, field director and national engagement lead for Britain Stronger in Europe. She now works happily for an outstanding multi academy trust in the East Midlands.

Opposition Groups Unite to Push for a People’s Vote

Spokespeople from opposition groups have this afternoon issued a joint statement demanding a Peoples Vote.

Chuka Umuna, from The Independent Group, along with Ian Blackford of the SNP, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party and Liz Saville-Roberts of Plaid Cymru held a joint press conference, after which the following statement was delivered:

“The UK is in the midst of a Brexit crisis led by a Government dictated by incompetence. Given everything we now know - and the detrimental impact Brexit will have on the UK’s economy, job opportunities and people’s livelihoods, the priority must be bringing the issue back to the people in a People’s Vote – with the option to remain on the ballot paper.

“We are in agreement that there is no such thing as a good Brexit and that people across the UK face being worse off.

“We have shown over the past three years we are willing to find a compromise position to end the impasse.

Time is fast running out and any compromise that is reached must be brought back to the people through a fresh referendum, and keep the option to revoke Article 50 on the table to avoid a no-deal Brexit”

Today’s intervention is a timely development given the Prime Minister’s statement last night, in which she invited the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn to 10 Downing Street for talks -thereby signalling a shift in Government policy towards a softer Brexit.

However, the involvement of the Labour Party in crafting a way forward has already lead to two ministerial resignations this morning. Additionally, there is confusion about Jeremy Corbyn’s position, caused by a now familiar pattern of statement and counter-statement from the Labour Party. Initially, a spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn had confirmed that he would agree to a deal which ended reciprocal freedom of movement rights. However, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornbury then contradicted this several hours later.

The joint statement has subsequently taken on even greater significance, following this afternoon’s vote in the Commons on whether or not to continue with the indicative vote process, which had resulted in no clear outcome.

With the Government now seeking a further extension to Article 50, and Parliament in turmoil, it has become more important than ever for the opposition parties to work together to ensure a Brexit compromise in our national interest.

Opposition parties have indicated that they are willing to support a deal. However, given it has now become clear that any form of Brexit will result in significant damage to economic growth, jobs, and wages, it’s vital that voters be given a final say on Brexit in the form of a Peoples Vote.

Save us from Brexit chaos: Give us a ‘People’s Vote’

“The question of Brexit must be given back to the people in a People’s Vote – it is the only credible option that remains”. This was Anna Soubry’s response to last night’s series of indicative votes on Brexit options.

She’s right of course. The House of Commons has reached a stalemate and simply cannot agree on the best way forward. It’s painful viewing.

Has there ever been a time our Parliament has been in such disarray? On one side we have The Conservative Party utterly divided and in turmoil – hell bent on ruthlessly putting their party before the national interest. To call it pandemonium is an understatement. Likewise, we have The Labour Party still harping on about their so called “better Brexit” - and trying every which way to avoid giving a clear position on a People’s Vote, despite its conference policy. Labour are more interested in using the disaster to get through the doors of number 10 Downing Street than they are about the dreadful impact Brexit will have on the country. One might ask, what have we done to deserve this?

So it’s a relief to see that some within Parliament are putting the interests of the UK first. Last night The Independent Group MPs voted in favour of a People’s Vote and in favour of the revocation of Article 50.

It’s now urgent to find a way out of this mess. It’s apparent that Parliament can not reach a consensus on the type of Brexit it wants. The only thing that is now clear is that Parliament agrees a no-deal Brexit is not the way forward.

So this leaves us back at square one, pondering on how we reached this point.

It’s strikingly clear that the type of Brexit that was sold to the British people simply can’t be delivered. It is obvious that the only escape from the Brexit chaos is to give the British people in a ‘People’s Vote’ and let the British people decide how this story ends.

Jo Thorne (McCarron) is co-editor of Change Politics and a former Labour PPC. @JoMcCarron

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The Chaos Will Continue

Britain’s chaos will continue

“I thought f*ck them and voted leave,” said a close friend of mine intellectually explaining his leave vote. He was expressing his anger at people left behind. No nationalist, he’s an immigrant who has dedicated decades of his life to serving people in poor communities in the UK and around the world. Some people think that if Brexit is either soft or stopped the whole nightmare of the last three years will end. It won’t.

The UK has seen no significant rise in living standards since 2002, yet the economy is almost a third larger. Unless and until Britain addresses this central flaw of globalised economies our chaos will continue. Voting for Brexit maybe like trying to treat a patient with a sugar pill or worse, but at least the patient may feel that they’re forcing the doctor to listen.

Free market capitalism has failed its central bargain of inequality in exchange for all people being better off. So now we know that liberal ideas like cutting taxes for the rich to boost the economy are as bankrupt as the neo-marxism and nationalism that liberals despise. But what to do to catch-up the left behind? Three ideas:

Bring in knowhow. Economist’s usually explain a country’s development through technological progress: People move into cities, allowing ideas to be shared more easily, then they educate their children longer, enabling further technological progress. Brazil’s levels of urbanisation, years of schooling and university graduation rates in 2010 are slightly better than the UK’s in 1960. So, you might expect GDP per capita in 1960 Britain to be similar to Brazil’s in 2010? In fact, 1960 British GDP per capita is almost one and a half times higher. Economist Ricardo Hausman explains the difference due to the difficulty in acquiring “tacit knowledge;” the knowledge acquired by learning by doing which cannot be taught. It is easier to move people with tacit knowledge than to acquire it. So, to successfully regenerate deprived areas it is vital to incentivise highly skilled people to move there and use their tacit knowledge to create new companies and jobs. [1]

Learn from catch-up economies. In traditional liberalism the state’s role in innovation is limited to a regulator and builder of infrastructure because state bureaucrats do not have the knowledge to identify new technologies. Another simplification. It may be appropriate when operating with frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, but not when trying to catch-up with technologies already used elsewhere. South Korea went from being as poor as Ghana in the 1950s to one of the most advanced economies on the planet through an aggressive state led catch-up based on intense collaboration between the state, universities, and the private sector with a massive research and development spend. This could be used to electrify left-behind areas by focusing on green technologies with a more predictable path of technological development and so more suitable for state intervention. When combined with a fiscal stimulus, we could accelerate the UK’s decarbonisation and so also help avoid climate catastrophe.

Raise taxes. With the failure of “trickle-down economics” capitalism’s basic bargain needs to be re-written to be far more redistributive. This will only exacerbate as the tech revolution provides capitalisms returns to an ever-smaller group. In his recent book “The Future of Capitalism”, Paul Collier advocates a city tax on wealthy metropolitan areas, like New York’s city tax, to regenerate areas left behind. This could be the basis of a settlement between leave and remain voters; an open economy is tolerated in exchange for far greater focus on globalisation’s costs.

All this would amount to a new national endeavour and a financial sacrifice by the rich. But I cannot see how our dysfunctional political system is in in any way up to it. But if it isn’t, voters will continue to deliver nationalist and neo-marxist votes to stick two fingers to the system that ignore them. Our downward spiral will continue. That is why it is so important that The Independent Group adopt a policy platform that offers fundamental and credible reform of our economic model.

Chris Coghlan is a former diplomat. Last general election he stood as an independent in Battersea. Chris holds an MBA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Prior to joining the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Chris spent a decade in finance and founded the charity Grow Movement. @_chris_coghlan

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Change on the horizon: TIG activists welcome new party.

Activists supporting TIG are delighted the group has applied to register as a political party in order to stand candidates in any European elections.

Under the current system of proportional representation used to elect Members of the European Parliament, any group must be registered as a political party in order to field candidates.

The U.K. Government has been advised by the European Commission (EC) that polling day for these elections should be held on Thursday 23rd May. In order for The Independent Group to field candidates, they have been advised to submit an application to become a political party “urgently”  to allow time to register for nominations.

Therefore, The Independent Group have submitted their application and today we are delighted to learn the new party will be called ‘Change UK’

We understand the MPs will continue their current roles for the group, with Heidi Allen appointed to become Interim Leader of the new party for the purposes of EC registration until the election of a permanent leader at an inaugural conference in September.

Co-editor of Change Politics, Jo McCarron, welcomed the announcement.

“Our politics is broken, and the UK needs a progressive alternative to the business as usual politics of the established parties.”

“We’re confident that Change UK will set our a transformative agenda to change our politics and our country. This will start with the forthcoming EU elections, where we expect Change UK to field a range of principled candidates who will put our national interest first. This is the change our country has been waiting for.”