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?

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.