by Peter Franklin
Friday, 27
May 2022
Spotted
13:51

Tony Blair is back with (another) centrist party

The former PM wants to emulate Emmanuel Macron's success
by Peter Franklin
Out with the new, in with the old. Credit: Getty

I regret to inform you that the centrists are at it again. Trying to break the mould of British politics, that is. According to a report by Eleni Courea for Politico, the latest talk of a new centrist party is linked to a think tank called the Britain Project: “The half a dozen individuals who spoke to POLITICO made clear that the Britain Project was definitely not a new party — but none would entirely rule out it becoming one in future”.

Emmanuel Macron’s La Republic En Marche movement is mentioned as an inspiration — and, as Courea notes, LREM started off as a think tank before becoming a fully fledged political party. But what would a British LREM — Le Royaume-Uni En Marche — need to succeed?

First of all, a purpose. Pollsters sometimes record a public appetite for a new centre-ground party. But as the ill-fated Change UK found out in 2019, that’s not enough. Indeed, when YouGov polled people on different ways of fixing British politics, the formation of new party was one of the least popular options.

For most people, a new party just means more politics — which they don’t see the point of. That’s in contrast to the French situation in 2017, when the mainstream parties were falling apart and the extremists were surging. There was a demand for a new force to hold the centre — and Macron supplied it. 

And that brings us to the the second thing that a British LREM would need: leadership. The names associated with the Britain Project — Rory Stewart, Philip Collins, Nicola Horlick etc. — would make for a perfectly pleasant dinner party, but not a disruptive political movement. 

Next month, the Britain Project gets together with the Tony Blair Institute to organise the Future of Britain conference. Apparently, the event will be hosted Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel of the BBC and the key note speaker will be Tony Blair himself.

Now here we do have a disruptive political leader. But unfortunately for those waiting for a British Macron, we’re in the 2020s not the 1990s. Blair is more R.E.M. than LREM. 

In fact, many of the things that most urgently need to be changed about this country — including wage stagnation, the housing crisis, the exploitation of cheap migrant labour, the eclipse of UK manufacturing and over-reliance on global supply chains — have deep roots in the New Labour years. 

The third thing that a British LREM needs is a friendly electoral system. Macron’s political movement was perfectly positioned to exploit the special features of the French system, which disproportionately favours high-profile centrists. The closest the British ever came to similar arrangement was the AV referendum in 2011, when the voters decisively rejected reform to stick with first-past-the-post.

The other time we might have got it was in 1998, when the Jenkins Commission recommended a system called AV plus — under which a new centrist party might have thrived. However, this was rejected by the Prime Minister at the time. You know the one.

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Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
30 days ago

One Globalist party to rule us all. It’s like the result of the EU Referendum fell on deaf ears.

Philippe W
Philippe W
1 month ago

There’s a Tony Blair Institute? Gawd help us all.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

The Tony Blair Institute. Dear God, these people are delusional.

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
1 month ago

I thought Blair had been out of the news for about five minutes, and was about time he popped up again to give us his earnest thoughts on something or other. He craves relevance like a drug.
As for Peter Franklin’s idea of a “perfectly pleasant dinner party”, remind me never to accept an invite to his place (fortunately very unlikely anyway). Rory Stewart? An ego in search of a purpose, and the answer to a question no-one has asked. And should I have heard of Philip Collins? Unless he’s that bloke from Genesis (in which case, I might come to the dinner party after all).

David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago

Rory Stewart and Nicola Horlick would be interesting dinner companions, I think. So would Alex Salmond (but then, I’m a bloke), David Lammy and David Willetts. I’d draw the line at Gina Miller though.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
28 days ago

AND in search of a persobality!

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
29 days ago

The problem Blair has with this project is that Britain already has a very successful centrist New Labour clone – the Conservatives. For people who want a party that talks the talk on being business friendly but doesn’t hesitate to impose massive taxes on them, that speaks patriotically but not too patriotically, that lacks any clearly defined political ideology, and that is mostly about tending to the status quo …. well, that’s the Tories. There’s a reason they were able to conquer Labour heartlands in the last election and it’s not because the voters changed all that much. It’s because BJ is basically TB with a more casual personality, as was Cameron, and the Conservatives under those leaders was very similar to New Labour.
What Britain actually could use is a new party that tries to split the Conservatives by staking ownership over the small state, no war, liberal capitalist economics part of the electorate. It’s not enough to win an election but would put pressure on the Conservatives and force them back from leftwards drift any time they started taking their original core voter base for granted (which is always, in recent decades).

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
28 days ago

One should run, run, run for the hills from any political outfit/movement involving Tony Blair.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
1 month ago

The only question a new centrist party would have to answer is “are you for or against brexit?” The answer, however mealy mouthed, would seal its fate for half the voting population.

Christopher Gage
Christopher Gage
30 days ago

Hilarious. Macron’s success is down to his neo-feudalism. An alliance of rich aging soixante huitards and their pet victims over whom they slather compassion but never much else.
That thimblerig is almost biologically done. So, I do hope, is Blair and his band of narcissists.

Last edited 30 days ago by Christopher Gage
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
28 days ago

Now where is my noose? hmmm… will that beam support my weight?….

R S Foster
R S Foster
28 days ago

…I suspect that when people say they would like a new centrist party…they probably mean that they would like to see Labour moving back to the Centre on “culture war” issues…just as if they talk of wanting a more right wing alternative…they want the Tories to be more culturally conservative.
We are in trouble because the “Overton Window” on “culture war” issues that both main political parties now inhabit…is vastly more progressive than practically anyone in the general population is.
I’d suggest the space most of us comfortably occupy is Red Tory/ Blue Labour…culturally conservative, but supportive of moderate redistributive policies and well run and decent welfare provision… “Flag, Faith and Family” remains common ground for most of us.
Which left many Brexiteers voting Tory because at least the current PM got the “Flag” part right…as against Labour, who were all for abolishing the Country and handing us over to Brussels… but frankly, none of us think much of either party on either “Faith” or “Family”.
Probably why I subscribe to Unherd, where more sense is written on both those issues than by anyone in mainstream politics..!

Adam Colclough
Adam Colclough
28 days ago

A charismatic former PM still smarting over being deposed by his main rival plots and schemes to regain power as the leader of a new party. That sounds like a plot you could sell to Netflix.

As a something that is likely to happen in real life, or what passes for it in British politics these days, it is pretty much a non-starter.

On a practical level the first past the post system means that a new political party would have to spend years patiently building up support through local elections before being in a position to elect a single MP.

As for Blair being the leader that is also highly unlikely, prominent figures who set up their own party have an unfortunate tendency to come a cropper. It is hard to imagine St Tony wanting to trawl around the provinces speaking to mostly empty halls while the tabloid press snigger on the side-lines.

His ego may be inflated enough for him to believe himself to be the saviour of the nation, it is also sufficiently fragile for him not to put the proposition to the test.

Al M
Al M
1 month ago

Test

Al M
Al M
1 month ago
Reply to  Al M

That’s odd. Can’t seem to post on the Ricky Gervais thread.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 month ago

Ditto