2007 - 2022

The Middle People – an En Marche! for Britain

Rumours of a new political party leaked out this afternoon, a notional ‘centrist party’. The National told us: “Ruth Davidson will join Tony Blair at an event rumoured to be the beginnings of a new centrist party led by the former prime minister, according to reports. Organisers are also reportedly “desperate” to get Emmanuel Macron to speak at the Future of Britain conference, fuelling speculation it could be a vehicle for the Labour grandee to make a return to politics.”

This is brilliant on so many levels. First this scenario was dreamed up in half a dozen articles by Chris Deerin a few years ago.

Here he is in the Herald arguing:

Dec 2017: “We in Britain desperately need a new political party in the Emmanuel Macron mould”.

“When you think about it, there will be a new party. Its lack is unsustainable. If you’re not sure whether it’s for you, here are the sort of people it should include: David Miliband, John Major, Ruth Davidson, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Yvette Cooper, Nick Clegg, Anna Soubry, George Osborne, Nicky Morgan, Ken Clarke, Peter Mandelson, Paddy Ashdown, Chuka Umunna, Jack McConnell, Alistair Darling, David Willetts, Dominic Grieve, Amber Rudd. If you look at this list, appreciate the connections, share the sensibility and the desire to pull our politics back from the edge, you’re in.”

To be honest, I don’t think I’m in Chris.

Then in October 2017 he wrote the same piece, this time for Unherd: “Is it time to break up the old political parties?”

“Anyone who’s dug around a little knows that the money is there to fund a new muscular, liberal, centrist movement. We know a large proportion of the electorate sits somewhere in the middle of politics, and that the younger generation tends towards a more liberal, internationalist outlook than its predecessors.”

Next up here he was in the New Statesman arguing for a new political party:

February 2018: “Andrew Adonis should ditch the pessimism and start a centrist party”.

“For all the naysaying, there are several untested arguments for a new party. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the centre must, one way or another, be represented. For all the votes cast last year for Labour and the Tories, voters may not behave in the same way if presented with different options (let’s set the Lib Dems aside as having little more than junk value). Meanwhile, 2018 is not 1981, and this Britain is not that Britain: our lives and our expectations are different now, the political tensions fresh, the demographics changed, the world of communication transformed. The possibility of the new is all around us at all times – so why not in politics?”

The second thing that is so beautiful about this new idea is what it tells you about the political class and how devoid they are of ideas. The notion here is that you could somehow re-animate Tony Blair and wipe-clean his reputation and throw in Martin Lewis, Baroness-Colonel Davidson, Rory Stewart, Alistair Carmichael and former work and pensions secretary David Gauke – and hey presto!

The mention of Macron – who the organisers are supposedly  “desperate” to speak at the Future of Britain conference, tells us much more. This is about slogans and positioning – this is an empty vessel and a dream of replicating En Marche!, the centrist and pro-European political movement that swept Macron to power.

The air of desperation around this has two aspects. One is the idea that Tony Blair would/could make a political comeback is fanciful in the extreme but telling that some journos would take that seriously. Blair as macron is a time-shift fantasy. Second is the notion that all of the bad things just fade-away when you put together all these Nice Sensible People. You don’t need to resolve the constitutional crisis, the social crisis or the ecological crisis, you just need some fresh faces. You don’t need policies, ideas, a base in society, a geographical connection, or roots in community, you just need to be Nice and Sensible.

The third thing that is kind of glorious about this idea is how often it pops-up. The idea of a magical centrist ‘middly’ party comes around regularly. The last one was the doomed Independent Group (aka Change UK) which spluttered into life (and died) in 2019. I suspect Blair would be the groups Chuka Umunna while Ruth Davidson would be the new Mike Gapes.

It’s sort of part of the furniture of British politics to imagine that some mythical ‘middle ground’ is the holy destiny, this despite us enduring some of the most reactionary far-right governments in living history. This is the driving force behind this fantasy, that looking around at the state of the UK, its institutions, its economy, its political landscape they are so shocked and offended to be jolted into action. The group would be a concoction of New Labour, Blue Labour, the dregs of the Tory Party and that money-saving guy. Instead of looking at what has actually happened to Britain and facing the truth of the toxic media, the powerful forces investing dark money and the spread of far-right ideas into the heart of government – the alternative is to imagine the clock can just be turned back and we can awake from this nightmare without realising that the very people who set us on this trajectory are … wait for it … people like Tony Blair!

This great new party – or movement – need some slogans to get them going. How about:

Forward to the Middle!

Anything for Power!

Back to the Future!

Britain is Good

Let’s Be Nice

Forget Everything

Liberal Centrist Britain hates what has happened, and can’t face the reality that this is Britain, this is it. But more than that they hate being out of power and out of the limelight.


Comments (7)

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  1. Meg+Macleod says:


  2. meg macleod says:


  3. Doug says:

    If anyone thinks the current Labour Party aren’t Centrist, then they need their Overton Window cleaned. What a fantastic set of alternatives; a barely ‘Left’ mildly social democrat Labour, a recently taken over Blukip, and some mythical party somewhere between them.. occupying the spot the Thatcherite Conservatives used to occupy as far as I can see. Ridiculous.

    1. Niemand says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. If Corbyn had still been in charge, maybe, but he is long gone.

      What would be interesting to properly understand (and I don’t think we do this side of the Channel) is exactly why Macron was so successful. Did he really occupy a missing centre ground? Or was it in fact his broadly ‘non-politician’, shake it all up approach that appealed? This is what this proposal seems to miss – Macron was a banker and adviser only taking on an active political role in 2014, resigning by 2016 and launching En Marche. What he absolutely was not was a well-known, old established politician of any political hue, though he had been a long-standing member of the Socialist party. It was his novelty that mattered.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    A sort of Windows ME relaunch, then? Kind of ignores the failure of the whole of the British ruling class to deliver good government. Ever. And the inclusion of a war criminal who sleekitly enslaved British foreign policy to the USAmerican Empire. Lots of things occupy a central position, like a gastro-intestinal parasite for example, without being worthy of political power, and this lot can hardly be described as fresh, having long expired worst-after dates. OK, what’s the next alternative?

  5. Tom Parkhill says:

    En Marche has eviscerated the centre right and centre left in France. It would be a vanity project for Blair and the Baroness. The chances of success are slim, but while it might be difficult to believe that things can get worse, they certainly can. If you have a party of the centre, then the opposition has to come from the extremes, and given this is the UK, I fear that this would be an extreme of the right. “Après lui, le déluge”.

  6. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Such things, like the SDP, ‘emerge’ when the Tories are in serious danger of losing and some members of the public are beginning to think radically – for things like independence for Scotland and Wales, reunification of Ireland, Corbynite policies, trade union activism, etc.

    Such parties are to ‘stem the flow’ of voters from the Tories to a party with similar policies but with a sunshine, smiling face stuck on it.

    However, Starmer is already, but with limited success seeking to position Labour to be that party. In Scotland, the so called ‘gains’ by Labour in the Council elections were due to tactical voting by Tories to seek to stem SNP/Green gains. Despite the ‘gains’ it was the second worst Labour result for decades, but do not let facts get n the way of myth!

    So, the increasing numbers of poor people, of oppressed people of colour, of oppressed LGBT+ groups, of victims of misogyny etc, cannot expect more than tinkering at the edges from any incoming Labour Government. It will be more of the same. The new party or a Labour minority government allied with anyone but the SNP will simply gives us Tories redux. Wee Dougie Alexander is urging Labour to REFUSE any Scottish referendum. He is such a principled democrat, isn’t he????

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