James Dilley

Communications Officer for Renew 

You’d be forgiven for thinking a new centrist party launched this week.

The Independent Group – currently an 11-strong bunch of ex-Labour and Tory MPs – is the result of establishment parties moving to their extremes. Chuka Umunna is right to claim that a Corbyn Labour Party screeching towards the far left doesn’t represent his moderate, liberal views. Anna Soubry, meanwhile, has long been an alien in a party that, as some have put it, increasingly looks like ‘Bluekip’ rather than the party of
market-friendly pragmatism.

Yet these guys have a small problem – they’re not actually a party.

The Independent Group has no identity. It’s not clear what its parliamentary ambitions are, with members appearing scared of the prospect of elections. And, most importantly, it doesn’t have a grassroots network of supporters ready to campaign on the streets.

In some ways, I don’t blame them. Starting a new party in the UK is bloody difficult.

And, believe me, I should know – I work for Renew.

We’re what you might call a ‘political start-up’; a group of people who started a party from scratch. Renew launched over a year ago and now has a network of members, supporters and potential election candidates based all around the UK.

Renew party Press conference. Centre Annabel Mullin (co-leader) left hand side James Torrance (co-leader) right hand side James Clarke (deputy Leader). Photograph by Elliott Franks

It hasn’t been easy, but we achieved this through hard graft. When the ‘Beast from the East’ arrived this time last year, our leaders set off in sub-zero temperatures to talk to real people. And that was after running round the whole country, trying to get a sense of what was really happening in politics after the Brexit referendum.

One of the things we learnt was that folks young and old didn’t have much faith in our current political system or those who represent us in Parliament. Politicians in general were suffering a brand crisis – the kind that Facebook went through after the data scandal, or Gap did when its big-logoed hoodies became really uncool in the playground.

Meanwhile, many young people couldn’t give a toss about their ballot options. Not to say they weren’t politically engaged; they just didn’t feel like the current parties offered them any solutions.

And can you blame them? Sure, Corbyn has struck a chord with millennial socialists – but he has put off just as many aspirational young voters who don’t go mad for Marx. Even more importantly, his party has failed to hold the government to account on Brexit – and they reckon about 73% of voters under the age of 24
voted to remain in the EU in 2016.

Leader Annabel Mullin

The Tories, meanwhile, have never been popular with the young, for reasons I don’t need to go into here.

So there was a real crisis of confidence, and we felt that we could step in and fill that void by being honest about the challenges we face. We’d like to attract great candidates from across civil society – regardless of age – who agree on the need for an inspiring 21st century vision
for the UK.

That’s a vision that prioritises electoral and constitutional reform to better hold our representatives to account. It’s one that sees in climate change the biggest existential threat to humanity since a bunch of scientists built nukes in the desert. It’s also completely honest about our country’s strengths and limitations in a tricky world.

Finally, we’re honest about the great things the EU has done for the UK and have always advocated remaining inside
the union.

So that’s our pitch. The question is – are The Independent Group prepared to give you a better one?

After all, if they haven’t talked to real people from outside parliament, can they really know their audience?

I’ll let you decide.

And make no mistake – Renew isn’t perfect. But then, neither are any of us. Neither is life.

We’ve been called crazy for starting a new party in first-past-the-post Britain. But we think it’s crazy to sit at home when this country is begging for something new.

James Dilley is the Communications
Officer for Renew.
Check out their website here and follow the party on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Last Update: May 24, 2024