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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

Is there a UK 'En Marche' in the wings?

April 9, 2018 11:55 AM
By Paul Chandler

There are rumours in the press of a new 'centre' party being formed by a collection of well-meaning people prepared to bankroll the party to the tune of £50m. Inevitably parallels are drawn with Emmanuel Macron and 'En Marche' in France.

LibDems get understandably worked up about this kind of talk. 'There is already a perfectly good centre party', we say, 'it already exists, and it's called The Liberal Democrats!'

As someone who lived through the machinations of the formation of the SDP 37 years ago, I would like to say that we should encourage any such new party and not fear it. When the SDP was formed it generated an enormous amount of publicity and raised a lot of money. Very soon after they were formed the SDP went into an electoral pact with the then Liberal Party (I was a member of the Liberals and prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South Worcestershire - I had to fight to keep my seat allocated as a 'Liberal' seat). The whole experience of working closely with another party was inspiring and motivated us to fight. The new Party brought new ideas and new enthusiasms.

Of course the 'dead' hand of the UK electoral system wore down the resistance of the SDP and eventually the party merged with the Liberals leaving as their main legacy the word 'Democrat' in the party name. We also kept many of the new SDP activists in the merged Party one of whom, Charles Kennedy, went on to become the leader that led us to oppose the Iraq war - may he rest in peace!

The main casualty was Dr David Owen who could never stand the 'Liberals'. Luckily for us, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams remained. So, I say please, please bring on a new centre party. It is strange when 54% of the electorate say that nobody represents them even when we have 5 national parties from the UKIP to the Greens. To us LibDems there may not seem room in the middle but if history is any guide - there is always room in the middle.