Brexit shifts ground at Westminster

Un nou­veau par­ti cen­triste pour le Royaume-Uni ?

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito Sommaire -

De­puis les an­nées 1920, la vie po­li­tique bri­tan­nique est ré­gie par deux par­tis qui ont al­ter­né à la tête du gou­ver­ne­ment, le Par­ti conser­va­teur et le Par­ti tra­vailliste, aux­quels viennent s’ajou­ter de­puis peu les Li­bé­raux-dé­mo­crates. Mais le Brexit me­nace dé­sor­mais de faire im­plo­ser les par­tis po­li­tiques tra­di­tion­nels. Un scé­na­rio dans le­quel ces der­niers lais­se­raient la place à un tout nou­veau par­ti cen­triste com­mence même à se des­si­ner...

Bri­tain’s po­li­ti­cal land­scape has al­rea­dy been re­sha­ped ir­re­vo­ca­bly by the Brexit vote. But there is a gro­wing fee­ling at Westminster that the deep divisions over whe­ther, and how, Bri­tain should break from the EU, can­not be contai­ned wi­thin the exis­ting par­ty sys­tem.

2. Wi­thin La­bour in par­ti­cu­lar, tur­moil from the par­ty’s hand­ling of an­ti­se­mi­tism has al­so tes­ted the loyal­ty of MPs, some of whom were al­rea­dy scep­ti­cal of Je­re­my Cor­byn’s lea­der­ship, and want to see him take a more stri­dent anti-Brexit po­si­tion. When Len McC­lus­key, the ge­ne­ral se­cre­ta­ry of La­bour’s big­gest union ba­cker, Unite, un­lea­shed a stron­gly wor­ded at­tack against Chu­ka Umun­na [in Au­gust], he was re­flec­ting concern that Cor­byn’s lea­der­ship could be des­ta­bi­li­sed by even a re­la­ti­ve­ly small num­ber of high-pro­file de­fec­tions.

3. One se­nior par­ty fi­gure sug­ges­ted Cor­byn’s core team, har­de­ned by the “chi­cken coup” 4. First­ly, a num­ber of Je­wish MPs se­rious­ly consi­de­red re­si­gning the whip over the par­ty’s hand­ling of an­ti­se­mi­tism be­fore the sum­mer, and the re­sur­gence of the is­sue has made that threat sa­lient once more. Se­cond­ly, but se­pa-

ra­te­ly, a group of cen­trist MPs, in­clu­ding Umun­na and fel­low La­bour MP Ch­ris Les­lie, are wi­de­ly be­lie­ved to be laying the ground­work for the crea­tion of a new par­ty al­though both have de­nied this.


5. Third­ly, Si­mon Franks, the mil­lio­naire co­foun­der of the film ren­tal bu­si­ness Lo­veFilm, is pre­pa­ring to launch a cen­trist, anti-politics par­ty, Uni­ted for Change, pe­rhaps as soon as next month. “Franks wants to be the new Em­ma­nuel Ma­cron,” said one per­son with know­ledge of the project, be­lie­ved to have a £50m bud­get. Uni­ted for Change is not be­lie­ved to have any big name po­li­ti­cians on board yet.

6. Des­pite the an­xie­ties of the lea­der­ship, next spring, af­ter the end of March date set for Brexit, is dee­med by cen­trist MPs to be the most aus­pi­cious mo­ment for laun­ching a new par­ty. “There’s a ve­ry strong fee­ling that it must not be a dis­trac­tion from our goal to stop Brexit, just at the mo­ment” when stop­ping the UK lea­ving the EU may be pos­sible, said one MP.

7. One for­mer re­main cam­pai­gn source said: “The in­ten­tion is real and se­rious but it is un­li­ke­ly be­fore Brexit. The ar­gu­ment will be that the coun­try needs a new po­li­ti­cal force to bring it to­ge­ther post-Brexit. But I would guess the real in­cen­tive for any MP to jump … will be a threat of de­se­lec­tion. And that is why a lot of people are wat­ching ca­re­ful­ly to see if any­thing comes of the lo­cal at­tempts to de­se­lect Kate Hoey or Frank Field.”

8. Les­lie, the MP for Not­tin­gham East, is wi­de­ly vie­wed as being at risk of de­se­lec­tion. He used a brief stint as sha­dow chan­cel­lor in 2015 to argue that La­bour had lost the ge­ne­ral elec­tion part­ly be­cause its eco­no­mic po­li­cies were too left­wing, and has since been a tren­chant cri­tic of Cor­byn’s lea­der­ship. In June, he pu­bli­shed a wide-ran­ging po­li­cy pa­per, cal­led Centre Ground, un­der the aus­pices of the So­cial Mar­ket Foun­da­tion think­tank. Ma­ny saw the do­cu­ment as laying the in­tel­lec­tual ground­work for a fu­ture new par­ty.


9. But La­bour is not the on­ly par­ty being pul­led in at least two di­rec­tions by Brexit, with hard­line To­ry back­ben­chers mo­bi­li­sing to force The­re­sa May to ditch her Che­quers deal. “I don’t see how my par­ty can sur­vive. I real­ly don’t,” said one Con­ser­va­tive MP. Some of the par­ty’s centre-right have be­gun rea­ching out more re­gu­lar­ly. George Free­man, the MP for Mid Nor­folk, has in­vi­ted se­nior To­ry, Li­be­ral De­mo­crat and La­bour fi­gures to at­tend his Big Tent Ideas fes­ti­val this month, co-hos­ted by the peer Sal­ly Mor­gan, a for­mer aide to To­ny Blair.

10. Free­man has de­nied that the fes­ti­val is in any way lin­ked to plans to form a new centre par­ty, but he set tongues wag­ging af­ter in­vi­ting Em­ma­nuel Ma­cron to ad­dress the event. The French pre­sident won of­fice af­ter crea­ting a new cen­trist mo­ve­ment, La Ré­pu­blique En Marche. The fi­nal piece of the puzzle is the ques­tion of the Lib Dems, the ori­gi­nal cen­trist, al­ter­na­tive par­ty that is still strug­gling in the polls. The par­ty is “ripe for en­tryism, which we’re not to­tal­ly against”, one source said.


(Mar­kus Schrei­ber/AP/SI­PA)

Two anti-Brexit ac­ti­vists’ pup­pets de­pic­ting The­re­sa May, left, and Je­re­my Cor­byn, du­ring a pro­test, June 2017.

(Na­ta­sha Quarm­by/Shut­ter/SI­PA)

Du­ring a 'Keep Cor­byn In' pro­test in Lon­don.

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