The New Party for Brit… sorry Europe… was raised again over the weekend. This time in reference to Labour and Conservative moderates uniting to create something vaguely SDP-like, or perhaps a new Alliance with the rump Liberal Democrats.
I commented previously on the unwisdom of the golden hoard running a 48% strategy. Or at least banging on about Europe like some kind of EUKIP, when most of the time EU relations are not even in the top ten of issues that voters care about.
I’m not sure there’s much difference with the broader proposal. Bar it adds in a whole new level of problems given that the last thing most Conservatives and Labour supporters would accept would be playing second fiddle to either each other, let alone the leadership of Tim Farron. EUKIP isn’t the right strategy.
That is not to say realignment is wrong in itself. Evidently there is a space in politics for a UK Democrats Party. A split in Labour between socialists and social democrats now looks quite likely. With the majority of Parliamentary support sitting with the latter. Such a party could attract the kind of talent the Liberal Democrats need to survive, prompting a similar albeit more gradual split there.
Some Conservative modernisers might also be attracted to that pitch. But not in large numbers. Very disgruntled Remainers possibly. Losers from the next round of Cabinet promotions. Michael Gove… possibly not.
A deeper Conservative split is less likely. Largely as it’s happened already. UKIP already exists. There is little evidence of a split in the grassroots of anything like the depth of poison evident in Labour.
Whatever is being said on Twitter about the two current Tory leadership candidates. Differences between them in substance are slight. Style and experience, tone and focus, seem more the dividing lines than policy and promises. Both would attempt to build unity Cabinets. Both would try and make Brexit work. Both would do things that enrage self-appointed guardians of the status quo.
Either could be beaten by a well organised, well led progressive alternative. The only snag being that such a Party is unlikely to come oven-ready as the consequence of the collapse of Labour.
It just isn’t obvious who the Leader would be. Eagle is no Merkel, Owen Smith isn’t even Eagle. Umuna flounced his first outing. Jarvis failed to excite anyone with his testing of the waters last year. Starmer is hiding in London. Reeves looks more plausible as Chancellor than Leader. And so the list of ‘not quite rights’ on the right goes on.
The left of the Liberal Democrats would never let Tim Farron do a Paddy ‘project’ on them. Often they are more comfortable with Corbyn than his critics. The right of the party could wander off, but might feel no more comfortable with the pro-ID cards faction of Labour than they do with the pro-Palestine faction of Liberal Democracy.
The Greens would still be there, and still be hopeless.
Meanwhile UKIP is intent of scything a slice of working class votes from both Labour and the Conservatives, with a new populist front. The UK Democrats then could end up as a metropolitan party, alongside continuity LDs and Greens. That pool of votes isn’t large enough to win power.
So it’s a pickle. The project is possible. It’s just not obviously going to succeed any more than the SDP did. Difficult choices await, particularly if Corbyn gets on the ballot and wins.