Part 2 of our summary of 2021
Early autumn was spent organising the Renew Conference '21. It would be the first official, in-person gathering of Renew members since the December 2019 General Election campaigns in Sefton, Edinburgh, Hackney and Bromley. The excellent Us&Co premises in Monument were secured (the same venue we had used for the London Mayoral Hustings), invitations were sent, videos, speeches, workshops and presentations prepared, sandwiches procured, shirts pressed and hair cut.
October 9th finally arrived, in the middle of the UK's party conference season. The day went very smoothly, with excellent weather and a good deal accomplished. We set out our proposed reorientation, towards a forward-looking reformist agenda, focussing on reform, fairness and participation, and explored the idea of working as a platform to encourage and support independent-minded candidates to stand for office at all levels across the country. Our philosophical underpinning was discussed, with a focus on a new approach to politics, framed by a rebalancing of society. We announced 5 key areas of policy - reforming political culture, repairing the social fabric, Britain's place in the world, climate and environment and democracy and technology. There was time for all those present and those attending remotely on Zoom to debate the issues, ask questions, conduct group discussions and share ideas.
At the end of the day, Renew's social side came to the fore, with drinks all round and trip to the lovely St Katherine's Dock to continue the discussions informally.
A rise in National Insurance is announced, widely reported as 1.25% but effectively a 10% rise for most workers, with the burden bearing down disproportionately on the young and lower earners.
I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!'s Nadine Dorries made Culture Secretary (you read that right).
Recordings emerge of our new Housing Minister Michael Gove, referring to 'dirty northerners' and 'fetid foreigners', (amongst other noxious remarks).
President Biden openly snubs the PM over the threat to a change in the Irish Accords.
Food and energy prices begin rising, economists openly discussing spectre of stagflation.
At Labour conference, Keir Starmer attempts to rehabilitate the legacy of Tony Blair, whilst Angela Rayner refers to the cabinet as 'Etonian scum'.
At the Conservative conference, the PM compares businesses to junkies, 'addicted' to cheap overseas labour' and 'mainlining' low-cost migration. The Federation of Small Businesses responds with fury. Meanwhile, the tone of the conference is summarised by sessions such as - 'Levelling Up - Gin & Tonics provided'.
Conservatives vote to allow water companies to continue pumping raw human ordure into our rivers and seas.
MP Owen Patterson's influence-peddling is revealed.
Renew's main task following the conference was to share our new headline positions across all our channels. Videos, and posters were distributed digitally and we began a programme of outreach with like-minded campaign groups and other political parties.
In November, we hosted 'What Comes Next? 2021, a discussion with representatives from Open Britain, Make Votes Matter, Best For Britain, Unite to Reform, Electoral Reform Society, Young European Movement and Unlock Democracy in attendance, amongst others.
The discussion covered a wide area of topics, from potential political collaborations in a potential May 2023 General Election, to the campaign priorities for political reform such as PR, term limits, party funding and cleaning up politics. Interestingly, the crux of the discussion came at an unexpected point, that of explicitly pro-EU politics vs. that of an explicitly reform-based agenda. Whilst some believed the two goals to be compatible, others felt that the UK requires systemic, internal domestic reform before any realistic return to the EU might be realistically broached.
One of the results of the meeting was an alignment between Renew and Unlock Democracy with the two organisations cooperating officially in a number of initiatives including opposition to the Elections Bill, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, proposed changes to the Official Secrets Act.
MP Owen Patterson scandal and attempted cover-up explodes, forcing his resignation.
MP Geoffrey Cox revealed to have been working from the British Virgin Islands and being paid £900k to defend the BVI against a corruption enquiry being conducted by... wait for it... the UK Foreign Office.
Further sleaze stories implicate Matt Hancock, Robert Jenrick, Iain Duncan Smith and, naturally, Boris Johnson.
Inflation hits 4.2% - the highest for 10 years, and rising, as the underlying issues of the supply chain and Covid are amplified and exacerbated by Brexit.
The PM faces an unwelcome stand-off with the EU over the seemingly insoluble issue of Northern Ireland.
Government politicking an aggravating factor in the deaths of 27 people in the channel.
French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly referrs to the PM as a 'clown' and a 'knucklehead'. The story is considered unremarkable and is scarcely reported.
It is revealed that one or more Christmas parties allegedly took place at 10 Downing Street in the run-up to Christmas last year, at a time when everyone else was keeping apart from their loved ones and others died alone.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to criminalise almost all forms of protest.
Conservative voters abandon the party en masse at the North Shropshire by-election.
99 Tories rebel against Covid passports and mask mandates.
Lord Frost's resignation makes 2 Brexit Secretaries and 3 Chief Negotiators down and counting.
The Omicron variant sweeps through the population, placing enormous pressure on the NHS.
Johnson forced to apologise over his conduct over the affair of his flat refurbishment.
For us in Renew, we will stick to our principles of supporting reform, fairness and participation, and we will stand up to be a part of what comes next.
Have a great week,
James and the Renew Team