I have a suggested name for the new centrist party – The Entitlement Party In Democracy (TEPID)

For Blair, Miliband, and any other members of the band tempted by a heritage tour comeback, this is less about the burning desire to rescue their country from extremism than laying the ghost of their traumatised disbelief that Corbyn and his principles are so much more popular than them and whatever they affect to believe

Matthew Norman
Tuesday 10 April 2018 14:07
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David Miliband has been touted as the leader of a new centrist party
David Miliband has been touted as the leader of a new centrist party

As the excitement about its arrival nears physically dangerous levels of intensity, time for a reader’s competition.

What should the new “third party” be called? If you can think up a cool name for an approaching centrist entity poised to redeem British politics from the decline into partisanship, you’re way ahead of the masterminds behind it. Whoever they might be.

At this embryonic stage, mystery shrouds almost every aspect of the venture. All we know from a Sunday newspaper exclusive, is that a) a businessman called Simon Franks, who made his fortune renting out DVDs, has raised £50m to launch it; b) the company he set up in this cause is catchily titled Project One Movement for the UK; c) Corbynphobic Labour types and a few Brexit-disgruntled Tories may be involved; and d) the machinations have been going on for a year.

For now, all else is as opaque as Franks, who despite his commercial success and massive political significance has somehow evaded a Wikipedia entry.

Yet for all the obscurity, you needn’t live at 221B Baker Street to make a deduction from the timing.

The Observer’s revelation came a few days after a Times columnist, with strong connections to the ghostly professional nostalgists of New Labour, wrote a piece headlined: “There’s a hole in the centre made for a saviour”.

“The centrist mainstream seems dead and buried under a culture of intolerance,” she wrote, “but it would soon be resurrected if somebody emerged with the strength to roll the stone away from the mouth of the grave.”

And who might this hybrid of Jesus and Hercules be? “Imagine,” she went on, “if David Miliband announced he was returning to Britain to set up a new party.”

Imagine, indeed. It’s easy if you try. No more wicked Corbyn. The Tories wither and die.

Also lurking in the shadows, it’s fairly safe to guess, is Tony Blair, who like the prince across the water still struggles to accept his obsolescence, and remains a victim of a terminal sense of entitlement.

On one level, Blair understands how toxic his name is to any cause he advocates. On another, he plainly feels he is best placed to revive the political centre. There is no official word that he is advising Franks, or is in close contact with Miliband. But again, you can guess.

Before we go on, the ritual disclaimer. The recent history of cocksure predictions from this source and others argues for humility when it comes to dismissing the Whatever The Hell It Gets To Be Called Party’s chances of getting off the ground…or even storming to power a la Emanuel Macron and En Marche! in France.

In wildly unpredictable times, all is possible. At the 2022 general election, or sooner if this government falls, this Lenor fresh alliance of reasonablists may sweep to power, with Brains from International Rescue centre stage and puppetmaster Blair pulling his strings.

But without wanting to be an X Party pooper, I have some doubts. The last time a seemingly viable third party was created, in the early 80s, the SDP’s primary achievement was to split the centre left vote and entrench Margaret Thatcher in office.

Britain isn’t France, as you may have noticed from the hospitals and roads. Here, the two party system has endured for centuries. Obituaries published before the 2015 election were premature. The main parties now have a tighter stranglehold than at any time since the early 70s, with little sign of it weakening. Were there a ravenous appetite for an alternative, would the Liberal Democrats, led by the popular Vince Cable, be doing so badly?

As for the notion underlying this project, it seems based on optimistic faith in the enduring allure of New Labour to anyone beyond the metropolitan smugocracy it existed to serve. In tiny pockets of London, candles are still held for Blair and Miliband by those who will not acknowledge the rage of the ignored that did so much to fuel Brexit. Elsewhere, not so much.

But even if conditions were encouraging for a new centrist movement, breaking an entrenched political system takes courage and conviction. Would the Miliband who kept playing Knock Down Ginger, twice creeping up to the No 10 door when Gordon Brown was ripe for removal and twice scurrying back into the bushes, be the ideal leader?

Corbyn has had a dismal few weeks, with the tone deaf reaction to events in Salisbury and continued dithering over antisemitism, and his ratings have dipped.

But his appeal is based on something more lasting and fundamental than cooking up the least threatening policies of the centre left and right into saccharine political comfort food. He offers a radically redistributive programme targeted at the poverty and social immobility New Labour did so little to dissipate.

For Blair, Miliband, and any other members of the band tempted by a heritage tour comeback, this is less about the burning desire to rescue their country from extremism than laying the ghost of their traumatised disbelief that Corbyn and his principles are so much more popular than them and whatever they affect to believe.

For all that, here’s wishing them the best of British, peddling a brand that feels almost as cutting edge as Mr Franks’ DVDs. Time is short, and they need that sexy name – something sexier, at least, than the mooted “Mainstream” – so please offer your suggestions. Mine, for what it’s worth, is The Entitlement Party In Democracy. Or Tepid for short.

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