Why Does Anyone Care About Renew? (Part 3)

The travails of the centrist remoaners at Renew continued at the recent local elections, with a defecting councillor James Cousins, formerly of the Tories, losing his seat in Shaftesbury, Wandsworth. The party retains two other defectors at seats in Barnard Castle and Portsmouth that were not contested earlier this month.

Cousins tried to put a gloss on it, saying in a press release: ‘Though squeezed by the two main parties in this major battleground [Wandsworth], we showed we can take votes away from them and be competitive against the Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP. For example, Chris Coghlan won 10% of the vote in Balham.’

In fact in the Shaftesbury ward the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems all gained votes, with one Labour candidate only 36 votes off nicking a seat from the Tories. The only caveat was that turnout, both in relative and absolute terms, was higher. See the 2014 results here, and the 2018 results here. A similar story also emerged in the Balham ward between 2014 and 2018.

Snark aside, clocking up a few hundred votes in a few local councillors only a few months after setting up is not bad. But it is still rather bemusing that Renew continues to merit media attention, most recently a long read in the New Statesman.

Anoosh Chakelian, a staff hack at the leftish magazine, asks most of the right questions of the new party. Most compelling is why it needs to exist when its policy positions – anti-Brexit, centre right economics, centre left society – are shared by the Liberal Democrats.

‘The Lib Dems have got their own baggage which limits the way they can make an impact,’ says Renew volunteer Alan Victor. ‘If you’re new and fresh, you can start again from first principles.’

Perhaps so, but the Lib Dems did rather well at the locals, gaining 75 seats. The party also has a history of local campaigning, with at least some of the institutional memory, connections and infrastructure that goes with that.

As time goes on fewer are likely to care about the coalition years, that broken pledge on student tuition fees and former leader Tim Farron’s, er, conflicted stance on homosexuality. And if the Liberals claws back their outsider status, just what will the point of Renew be?

Podcast Ep. 109: Remainers Jealous Over Windrush Deportation

RD 109 Turn around the Windrush v2

The response to the Windrush scandal that saw foreign-born Britons denied access to public services, our slim understanding of Commonwealth happenings, and ‘Sir’ Nick Clegg’s podcast are the three topics this week.

Joining us is Brexit, the rotting yet adhesive core of our friendship.

Image based on HMT Empire Windrush, circa 1945-54 by Royal Navy official photographer

 

Even Cameron The Toff Gets Democratic Consent, Unlike Some Remoaners

‘A fragile state is one that has been racked by conflict, affected by corruption, one that is not really capable of delivering the basic services like health and education that its people needs. It’s often got a very divided society.’

But enough about Britain, to misquote former prime minister David Cameron in an interview with CNN earlier this week.

Presumably from his expensive shed, Cameron has been chairing a report into how the West fixes dysfunctional countries, advocating a gradualist, conservative approach that takes proper account of local conditions. It seems jolly sensible.

Being complex, boring and a tad vague, it has been overlooked by hacks in favour of Cameron’s admission he believes holding a referendum was justified. Cameron remains a remainer, but previously said the outlook for Britain leaving the bloc was not as doom-laden as previously thought – ‘a mistake, not a disaster.’

Unlike some undemocratic remoaners, he also acknowledges the basic principal of political consent.

‘I don’t regret holding a referendum; I think it was the right thing to do,’ he said. ‘I don’t think you can belong to these organisations and see their powers grow, and treaty after treaty, and power after power going from Westminster to Brussels, and never asking the people whether they are happy being governed that way.

‘There was also, I believe, a quite fundamental problem that Britain had, and Britain was seeing, with the development of the single currency, the beginning of decisions being made about us without us, and we needed to fix our position. I wanted to fix it inside the European Union; the British public chose that we would fix it from outside the European Union.’

Correct, although I suspect the conventional read that Cameron was hoping to avoid a referendum by again forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats after the 2015 general election is true.

Frontbench British politicians have studiously avoided the lack of political accountability in Europe ever since we joined the European Economic Community – save for the 1975 referendum that approved that membership.

Even so, it is awkward for remoaners that even Cameron says that people should not be governed without consent.

Why Does Anyone Care About Renew? (Part 2)

About a month and a half ago the launch of metropolitan elitist party Renew prompted us to ask why the group had garnered such voluminous press coverage – which we then added to by discussing it on our podcast.

The news cycle swiftly flushed the party out, but a recent interview by the Blairite comedian Matt Forde on his excellent podcast has shown there are signs of life in Renew.

Chris Coghlan, founder of Renew and former counter-terrorism officer with the Foreign Office, said the party was raising £10,000 a month, mostly out of small donations, and has 20 full or part-time staff.

It will also be running candidates in Battersea, Tooting and Putney, and wants to be ready for a snap election from this summer onwards. Its candidate base has certainly grown since we last looked, and has spread geographically far beyond the initial London-heavy selection.

Coincidentally, the Observer yesterday reported that a new centrist party with £50m of backing has been in stealth mode for a year. Perhaps they should pool their efforts?

It bears raising that the base rate for new political parties forming governments is almost negligible. Labour, who formed in 1900, are the newest party to lead a government. Though the Liberal Democrats formed in 1988 and were part of the 2010 coalition government, they are direct successors to the Liberals of old.

That said, Renew have already done better than 90 percent of those parties who register with the Electoral Commission. To be continued.

Who Saved Ukip From Death By Libel?

Since February, Ukip has been heading for extinction after its leader Henry Bolton was ousted over his racist girlfriend, its interim leader Gerard Batten was forced to beg for £100,000 to prevent insolvency, and then the party was billed £175,000 in a libel case.

Countering overstatements about the party’s early demise, Kippers have come through, with branches raising £79,477 and individuals £215,411 for a total of £294,888.

It is surprising the party still has life left in it. Since the referendum on EU membership the purples have suffered scandal after scandal, seemingly unable to co-ordinate without full-time pundit and occasional politician Nigel Farage.

But more intriguing than the turnaround is the statement from Batten that the £175,000 libel costs were paid ‘by other means’ in addition to the £300,000 raised. The press release goes on:

‘With great energy and speed our new Treasurer, Sebastian Fairweather put together a plan to raise the money, which he did, and it was paid on 29th March. This money did not come from the funds raised by means of the current fundraising initiative.’

Given the party’s empty pockets and the allocation of the £300,000 elsewhere, just who saved Ukip from death by libel?