A centrist alternative to the UK Labour Party?

It’s worth reading this first

…being an equidistant centre party is good for winning votes and terrible at winning seats.

That’s three questions anyone wanting to set up a new centre party has to answer, just as a preliminary: What does your proposed party stand for? How are you going to build an actual party, not just an HQ? How are you going to win Parliamentary seats and not just accumulate wasted votes?

Once they’ve got the answers to those, then we can move on to the more important ones, like how are they going to actually work in the current British party system. But we’ll save the advanced questions until we’ve got answers to the basic ones.


  • Jim M

    Any involvement from Tony Blair seems likely to scupper such a project from the start…

  • aquifer

    In the age of new media growth can be exponential not incremental, and a new party does not have to spend time dumping ideas or structures that are past their sell-by date. Campaigning NGOs kind of sell the votes of their members to the highest bidder. Maybe a new democratic party could start by picking favourite candidates of any party constituency on the basis of their backing for some core principles, like votes for 16 year olds, proportional representation, and online voting. And then track what the members they support actually do. They are sure to disappoint. Time then for the party.

  • Korhomme

    There was a interesting graphic in, I think, the Sunday Times perhaps 15 years ago. They had plotted on a left-right axis where the middle ground or majority opinion of the UK was. This place was, as I recall, a little to the left of the middle. Tony Blair’s New Labour was almost exactly in the same place, while the Tories were off to the right. An explanation, in part, of Labour’s electoral success at the time.

  • doopa

    I doubt that axis has shifted much and yet the tories are in and UKIP has a significant share. People don’t seem to report the same information in surveys c.f. elections.

  • Gavin Smithson

    Political party formation is like the formation of a solar system. Easy to create planets in early times of dust swirls and mayhem but harder when the planets have formed and settled into an orbit

  • 1729torus

    I always wondered about electing a Governor/Seanascal by means of the Condorcet method. Thanks to Condorcet voting, the office would go to the candidate who could beat every other one in an election, so Naomi Long would likely be NI’s governor. You don’t have the phenomenon with STV where a candidate has to get a certain amount of FPVs to have a chance of winning.

    The Governor would appoint a cabinet of MLAs subject to the consent of two thirds of the Assembly, and act as the head of NI’s government. Instead of a POC, he or she could veto any legislation, and it would require an absolute two thirds majority in the Assembly to override.

    Likewise, instead of STV, Assembly elections could be conducted by CPO-STV. This is a generalisation of the Condorcet method to multi-member constituencies that allows candidates with a high amount of second and third preferences to get in more easily.

    It compares all possible outcomes to the vote in a given constituency. So say (SF, SF, SDLP, UUP, DUP) would be compared to (SF, SDLP, Alliance, UUP, DUP) and so on. The slate of candidates that beats every other one would be the set of MLAs for that constituency.

  • scepticacademic

    The third question above is, of course, a consequence of the dysfunctionality of the FPTP electoral system, which mitigates against the emergence of new political parties or the realignment of existing ones. I think voter disengagement and disillusionment in GB can be partly attributed to this. Many people feel that neither of the big two parties represents their views/desires but see a vote for a ‘minority’ party as a wasted vote.

  • erasmus

    There already is one: the Lib Dems.

  • Gavin Crowley

    CPO-STV is brilliant – but it needs computerisation of the count in order to work, and therefore probably electronic voting. It might be feasible with 3-seat constituencies under a paper based system.

  • 1729torus

    machine-readable ballots would work

  • Barneyt

    I can see Blair and co instigating something. He’s perhaps not as toxic as many think and would certainly oppose the Conservatives. Camerons little Libya escapade can lesson the 2003 debacle to some extent.

    His leadership qualities would outweigh the past largely I feel. Even folks like me who recognise that JC has a reasonable heart and usually aligns with his own political conscience, cannot see him being sufficient in opposition or leading an alternative government (that chance wont materialise). He’s never going to win support whilst he can attract Footesque criticism, accusations of being chaotic and nothing more than a protest politician. He’s not carrying his own party either.

    This party is likely to form for many reasons, with the main one being labours current state and secondly the impact of Brexit. Its not clear if old Jezzer is for or against. If we are going to see the “Blair Democrats” it will have to gain traction this summer. They would attract the right wing of labour and offer an alternative for the more internationalist Torys….if such a thing exists.

  • Celtlaw

    Mick, why don’t the Liberal Democrats serve this function?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    I beg to differ. Blair is anathema to most left and centre left voters in the UK. As for opposing the Conservatives – before (and in the case of Brexit, during) the period of Corbyn’s ‘leadership’ Labour had a history of voting alongside the tories for most of their neo-con motions.

    Labour will be much more than literally decimated in the May local elections in Scotland, depriving them of the possibility in the remote future of their re-gaining a grasp of almost 60 Westminster seats. The tory influenced new boundary review in England will deprive them of a dozen or so more.

    I see no way in which a) a new party can be formed (see SDLP history) or b) Labour can cease it’s present civil war, in the foreseeable future. This, combined with the reduction in seats, means we face at least 20 years of tory mis-rule in the UK, unless we destroy the union – which we must do.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    See The Political Compass website. But I think your recollection is out. Tony Blair’s New Labour certainly wasn’t anywhere near the centre – you would have to go back at least to Harold Wilson for that.


  • Korhomme

    You might well be right. The point of the graphic was that to be successful, a political party had to align itself in much the same ground as the opinion of the public (as expressed in opinion polls). It struck me as a very forcible argument at the time, and perhaps even now.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Yes – makes sense – but there is also an argument for parties being opinion formers – e.g. the death penalty, or assisted dying – there may well be pretty large (different) sections of the electorate in favour of each of these, but most parties are resisting – so far

  • Korhomme

    My memory might well be a bit fallible these days, but without checking, I think the suspension of the death penalty in the UK happened under a Labour government in the 1960s. I think it was a private member’s initiative, though with government backing; initially for a trial for 5 years, then made permanent.

    At this time, the politicians who drove it forward were certainly ahead of the population, they actively changed opinion. Abortion was also a private member’s initiative, as was the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

    I find it disappointing that in NI, our parties are so behind the general opinion of all the electorate in such matters, together with same-sex marriage, and as you say, assisted dying. There seems to be so little appetite amongst most of them to attempt change; they react rather than leading change; they are pusillanimous.

    Have you ever gone to a Timpson’s outlet? They do heel repairs, and cut keys etc. Each outlet, as I understand it, is a franchise, run under the Timpson’s banner by the occupant. Timpson’s has around 10% of their members who are ex-cons, believing that such people are still worthy. True, a small number are still crooks, but I find the idea behind the enterprise very welcome.

    I do have a problem with the idea, common in the US, that a lad in his 20s can be told that he will die in prison. This must almost seem worse than a capital sentence; it seems to say that there is no concept that a prison sentence should include rehabilitation. (Of course, some might be sociopaths, and irredeemable, but still.)

  • Gavin Crowley

    They would – but… the idea of having the paper is the security of knowing that it could be done manually if it had to be. With larger numbers of seats the manual count might take several years, so the point of the paper trail is only for spot checks and quality control.
    If you are machine reliant, then you may as well go for electronic voting, with a paper ‘receipt’. It would make little difference.

  • James

    Gavin, did you know that local government elections in Scotland (2012, and next week) are already counted with the help of two IT companies, that were called ‘Logica’ and ‘Opt2vote’? They seem to have set up their own software and hardware system. Here is how Logica explain the vote counting and their work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoLC86qtjY4