Paddy Ashdown has launched More United, an ultimately well-meaning attempt to gain a coalition of liberal-minded voters to fund liberal-minded MPs which is going to crash and burn like an airliner made of cake without achieving anything of note. Here are the reasons why this is so:
- More United’s purpose is to fund candidates who agree with and say they will implement their principles when in office. These principles include a “fair, modern, efficient market based economy that closes the gap between rich and poor and supports strong public services” and an “open and tolerant society where diversity is celebrated in all its forms”. Leaving aside that basically everyone who isn’t in Ukip or the SWP wants those things, what these principles essentially are is a paraphrase of fundamental Liberal Democrat ideology.
Not wishing to be a negative Nancy here, but if you want to support Liberal Democrat aims and values, have you ever considered the Liberal Democrats? They’re quite big on Liberal Democrat policies, are the Liberal Democrats. Even better, you can vote for them and if their candidates win then they’ll be a unified voting bloc in Parliament, unlike if you were voting for Labour, Lib Dem, Green or whoever candidates who if they were elected could well be whipped against each other, non-binding pledges to third parties aside.
Let me say it as I see it – it’s founded by Paddy Ashdown and it’s encouraging people to sign a pledge relating to distilled Lib Dem policies. It’s a Lib Dem front. There’s no real shame in that, but that’s how I see it and I don’t know how more obvious it could be. It’s also worth pointing out that Labour moderates (a group whose disaffected members are the clearest targets of this) and the Lib Dems come from totally different ideological viewpoints even if they arrive at the same conclusions, so they’re not all that compatible except in a very shallow sense.
- It’s not even clear whether More United is compatible with party membership. The organisation itself isn’t a party, but by donating to it you would, according to the group’s aims, funding the electoral campaigns of candidates across multiple parties. Political parties are, understandably, tetchy about you endorsing other candidates if you’re a member of theirs; Labour, for instance, has the following in their rule book:
Chapter 2, Clause 1, 4B. A member of the party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, can revoke your membership on the grounds of “membership of or support for another political party in Great Britain“. Of course, being a member/supporter of More United doesn’t mean you are directly supporting another party’s candidate (your £5 or whatever doesn’t knowingly go directly to the coffers of a named candidate of an opponent party to whichever one you’re part of) but it’s still got the aim of donating to candidates who sign up to a pledge regardless of what party they are part of, which I could definitely understand various bodies in various parties not wanting to condone. If I give a friend naked pictures of myself to distribute to my girlfriend and a number of other women besides her, I do not then get to argue to my girlfriend that I’ve not distributed nudes to other women, my mate did after I gave them to him.
I’ll also have blinded numerous innocent women, but that’s by the by.
But anyway, my strange analogy aside, you can by all means sign up to More United; but there’s a non-zero chance that you’ll lose your party card. Labour MP Jess Phillips has signed up as an early member; let’s see how that plays out.
- Even if you sign up to More United, and it supports lots of candidates, and those candidates win, there is absolutely nothing binding those candidates to vote in line with More United’s principles. Political parties have whips. They can whip their MPs to vote in accordance to their party’s wishes and discipline or sanction them if they don’t. A pledge to a random organisation that isn’t the party you’re a member of the parliamentary party of is worth jack shit in the scheme of things. How is this going to achieve anything?
- Even if More United’s candidates win, assuming that they’re a patchwork of different parties (Labour, Lib Dem, Green etc), then related to point 3 there is nothing saying that they will have to work in concert. They can be whipped against each other. A putative “More United” majority would most likely end up being a coalition of Labour and the Lib Dems. Doesn’t sound too horrible, but there’s also no guarantee of such a thing (especially since, as noted, the two are ideologically at odds in numerous ways).
So here we have a group that, while well-intended, has very broadly written principles which, while being so, almost literally paraphrase a single party’s central ethos; could possibly lead to you getting chucked out of any party you’re currently in; means basically nothing since party whips can overrule it; and wouldn’t result in any kind of meaningful coalition. Sounds like a great idea. I’m sure it will achieve all sorts of great things.
Sorry, but if you want to split off the centre lefties from Labour into a (second) social democratic party, that can then ally or merge with the Lib Dems, as is the only real viable option for the party as it flays itself apart like a chicken in a centrifuge, then fucking do it already and do it properly. This pisspoor half-compromise, while again completely well-meaning and utterly inoffensive on the face of it, is just pointless. It’s something you can sign up to to make you feel good about yourself for a moment about how you’re standing up for a liberal Britain. It will achieve nothing and go nowhere.