Emmanuel Macron has a lot to answer for. His remarkable achievement – creating a new political party (modestly named with his own initials) and sweeping to victory in the course of just over a year – has fired dreams on this side of the Channel. Watching his example, a series of people in the UK have come to imagine that perhaps they, too, carry a marshal’s baton in their knapsack, hence the dizzying series of new parties which have been launched in recent months.
For some reason, these parties tend to have somewhat silly names. Here’s the list that I’m aware of so far:
Spring The Party – a good example of finding out that your chosen name doesn’t make sense, and having to add what it actually is onto the end. Launched by pro-EU barrister Jolyon Maugham in April, and vanished by August
The Democrats – launched by pro-EU former SpAd James Chapman in August, but it has never really got off the ground.
The Radicals – launched by pro-EU journalist Jeremy Cliffe, only for him to quit as its leader within 24 hours after his employer, The Economist, distanced itself from the idea. Dormant since mid-October.
Forward Together – proposed in June by pro-EU ecologist Chris Formaggia, it appears to have flopped in August after raising less than £7,000 of its crowdfunding launch goal of £100,000.
Renew – launched after the General Election by pro-EU former Foreign Office employee Chris Coghlan, who stood as an independent in Battersea in the General Election, and pro-EU accountant James Torrance, who stood as an independent in Kensington. The party is still going, and claims to have selected 100 candidates for the next election.
Advance – launched today by pro-EU former police officer Annabel Mullin, who contested Kensington for the Liberal Democrats in June. Mullin has pitched her party’s launch around the failures that led to the Grenfell Tower fire, and plans to run a full slate of candidates in Kensington and Chelsea in the forthcoming local elections. (Their logo appears at the top of this article)
There may be other such parties out there that I’ve missed, but you get the picture. It’s fascinating that so many new party efforts have sprung up in such a short time.
Part of that, as I said above, is about Macron. His example shows that it is at least possible for a new party to come from nowhere and leap straight into power – though it’s harder than he made it look, and he benefited from a series of events combining to discredit his rivals as well as, most importantly, a presidential system of government.
To an extent, the phenomenon may also be inspired by UKIP – though those involved would be unlikely to admit it. That, too, is a cautionary rather than supportive example, though. What success UKIP enjoyed required decades of often thankless battles, a hefty dollop of good luck, Nigel Farage’s unique talent, and, of course, the benefit of being repeatedly helped by the failures of the EU itself.
There’s a final factor. What all these new parties have in common is that they are vociferously pro-EU and anti-Brexit. Many of those founding them have been stirred into action by the continued shock of losing the referendum. That was to be expected, but it’s particularly notable that so many have chosen to go down the route of founding a new party rather than, say, joining the Liberal Democrats – indeed, the founder of one of them defected from the Lib Dems to set up her own outfit.
That doesn’t bode well for the much-heralded #LibDemFightback. Being pro-EU is their main current USP – if even the most enthusiastic members of their target audience don’t think they’re up to the job, what else is left to them?