Deputy Leader James Clarke breaks down Renew's approach to a potential general election in the autumn.
We are hurtling towards a climactic moment in UK politics and all interested parties, groups and individuals need to get prepared in short order.
Renew was formed in 2017 by passionate individuals who saw the need for renewal and reform and abandoned their old parties to join us. There have been more ups and downs than we could ever have anticipated, but we arrive in late 2019 in great shape and ready to campaign.
It is also true that we are supported almost exclusively by remainers and 'bregretters', so it is clear that Renew must do everything it can to harness the remain vote and to prevent a harmful Brexit majority in parliament following an autumn election.
In the last two years, we have recruited and trained scores of high-quality candidates and activists: people from outside politics who have become energized by the desire to help steer the UK away from a crisis. For us, the result of the 2016 EU referendum was a symptom of deeper issues, including the failed two-party political system. We think that the solution should include a new party that bridges the gap between career politicians and an increasingly disenchanted electorate.
This autumn election, if it proceeds, is not the election we were planning towards, but we must still participate and contribute to any movement that seeks to bring progressives, grassroots groups and remain parties together.
Renew emphatically supports the project to build a remain alliance, designed to give pro-European parties the best chance of winning seats, we confirm that we are prepared to stand our candidates aside in key constituencies to fight alongside the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and others.
We stood aside in Brecon to help deliver a Conservative seat to the Lib Dems, we joined forces with Change UK in the European elections and we worked with Lib Dems and Greens to select a ‘unity remain’ candidate in Peterborough. We have a track record of cooperation and innovative thinking.
We’re now announcing Renew candidates throughout the UK in anticipation of an Autumn election to signal our willingness to be part of this exciting new approach to politics. All of our candidates have pledged to support a 'remain alliance' candidate in each constituency, whether they are a Renew candidate or the representative of another remain-supporting party. Whatever happens, we will fight to prevent the Conservatives forcing through a damaging no-deal Brexit on October 31st.
With tensions in the country running so high, not everyone will agree with our approach, but we didn’t build Renew to stumble at the first obstacle: we have always strived to be the right people, doing the right things for the right reasons. If that means stepping forward as a candidate, or stepping back to support another, we will do our part.
In a single-issue general election, Renew must play its part and provide a platform for all of those people who want not only to protect the UK from crisis, but also advocate for the kind of reform and renewal required to prevent the next crisis.
Peterborough is the stage for an all-out political fight. James Clarke takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the campaign over the weekend.
It was 10:21am on a sunny Saturday in Cathedral Square, Peterborough, when the confrontation began.
The charge was led by half a dozen turbo-charged mobility scooters, pimped out in party flags and aggressively driven by a guerilla force of extremely motivated individuals who clearly meant business. They were backed up by a large, somewhat slower-moving but ambulatory group of equally fair-skinned and mature warriors (or ‘white-walkers’ for brevity). It was an intriguing match-up of the UK’s newest two political forces; Renew’s ‘happy few’, bright eyed and carrying messages of reform and renewal versus The Brexit Party, with their stubborn, curmudgeonly determination and vast (cumulative) centuries of bitter experience.
“Thanks for splitting the vote!”, called out one venerable gentleman.
“Likewise!”, we replied.
Luckily for the good people of Peterborough, the riot police were not required, milkshakes were kept sheathed and the Werthers Originals remained unspat. Renew lives on to fight another day and the Brexiters went off for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.
Much has been made of the emergence of the Brexit Party and what it means for the future of UK politics. There are two ways of thinking about this. One is that their existence heralds a new era of nationalism, populism and even some new form of British fascism, and that the party is seeking to normalise these ideologies in the guise of defending Brexit and democracy.
Another (perhaps hopeful) view is that the mass mobilisation of generally decent, older people may serve to temper the extremes of the English Defence League, UKIP, Tommy Robinson crew. It’s important to note that there is a real distinction in the tone and age of the two groups. Whilst the Robinson rallies are attended by small numbers of people who would otherwise be sharpening 50p coins or paying late-night visits to Jewish cemeteries, The Brexit party activists are far larger in number and would otherwise be doing the garden.
What we are witnessing may be the start of an overdue transition away from two-party red vs. blue politics in this country. It’s not hard to imagine a great cleavage on the horizon, a realignment where the right-wing of the Tory party coalesce with The Brexit Party to form a closed, nationalist, populist party and the moderate wing of Labour join the Lib Dems and other Remain parties to form an open, progressive and centrist grouping.
This by-election has quite an odd feel to it. The ‘resurgent’ Lib Dems are nowhere to be seen, the lesser-spotted Tory is even lesser-spotted than usual. Labour have been extremely sheepish (for some very good reasons indeed) and the Greens are hiding in foliage.
Next Thursday, the people of Peterborough may gain the unwelcome distinction of being the first constituency to return a Brexit Party MP to Westminster. But the town may also go down as the place where Conservative and Labour’s decades-long and undeserved dominance received its first mortal blow.
The political system itself is breaking apart - and fast - before our eyes. Throw your rules and assumptions about voting patterns out of the window. Brexit has ushered in an entirely new era of politics. Ciara Murray offers her analysis.
The latest YouGov Westminster voting intention polls have reflected the results of the European Elections. The Liberal Democrats and The Brexit Party, on 24% and 22% respectively, outpace the traditional parties. Labour and the Conservatives are left in the dust at 19% each. While many speculated on Labour and the Tories’ eventual demise owing to their spectacular incompetence these last years, many do not truly believe that Britain would put their money where their mouth is and vote to put them out of office. They are wrong.
While such a phenomenon has occurred before for the Lib Dems - during Cleggmania in 2010, the Lib Dems climbed to the top of the polls and dropped back down on election day -, this is the first time in decades that two smaller parties have outranked Labour and the Conservatives in both an international election as well as in national polling. And there are of course the local elections...
What does this show? It is evidence to suggest that the British people are no longer happy to offer their support to the traditional parties out of blind allegiance and loyalty. Brexit has awoken the British electorate from its political apathy, driving millions to action online, in the streets, on doorsteps - and now in the polling booth. Labour and the Tories’ behaviour - over Brexit, over allegations of racism, over their own internal squabbling - has pushed their loyal bases too far. They have taken advantage, have assumed blind loyalty, have acted with wholly undeserved entitlement and have not listened to the people they claim to represent, despite their cries to be heard. Their members, their supporters, their voters have received nothing in return, at a time when they are more charged than ever. So they have left. Now they are turning en masse to alternative voices who are claiming to offer change.
However, are these parties the anti-establishment forces they paint themselves as being? The Liberal Democrats are emerging from their near-total annihilation after the Tory coalition with its austerity and tuition fees catastrophes. However, for almost three years after the Brexit referendum they did not make any headway or impact with their Remain message, despite being the only party (at the time) who unequivocally backed staying in the EU. Members left in droves, dismayed at their complacency and lack of action at a time when they should have been dominating the discourse to counter the Brexit-peddling Tories, Labour, and UKIP. They kicked themselves into gear three weeks before the European elections on the back of positive local election results. But these punctual waves of energy are unusual - the natural state of the Lib Dems since the referendum has been insignificance.
The Brexit Party is a rehashed UKIP serving as a vehicle for Nigel Farage’s ego, whose UKIP failed to win a single Westminster seat in the 20 plus years of their existence and their near-total domination of political discourse. While they have tapped into a legitimate anti-establishment and pro-Brexit sentiment, they offer nothing new and apart from a pro-Brexit stance, they do not have any other policies as yet. While they have distanced themselves successfully from UKIP’s far-right ideology, when the time comes to create policies, values, and political positions, will they follow the values Farage has espoused for his entire career: anti-immigration, anti-diversity, anti-Muslim, anti-women far-right ideology? With the equally right-wing Anne Widdecombe as their most seasoned political representative, it seems likely.
The people are hungry for change and they are voting for the parties with the biggest imprint available who seem to offer it. Within this renewed landscape, there is an opportunity to present the British public with the real alternative to the current system - smaller parties from people outside politics who also want to radically reform the system. Britain wants radical change - Renew’s lifeblood is to dismantle the old power structures and put the British people in the driving seat of their country. Now is the time to take up space, shore up support at this moment of energy and hope. Renew is the change Britain wants - the polls and the elections prove it.