After the polls closed on the day of the European elections I wrote a comment piece in the i Paper in which I expressed my hope that the radical centre ground in UK politics can prevail at the next general election and change the trajectory of our country, taking it in a more progressive direction. I am more optimistic than ever before that this can now happen and have set out in detail in this pamphlet what progressive politics can do to change Britain.
The local elections, which Change UK could not stand in but in which the party endorsed the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party due to their unequivocal support for a People’s Vote, illustrated that millions of voters still agree with our assessment about the appalling state of British politics. If voting in those elections were replicated in a general election, the two main parties would have won far less than a third of the vote each. It was much worse in the European elections where the combined vote share of the two main parties was only 23.3%.
This presents the centre ground of British politics with a historic opportunity to present an alternative and to break the grip of the broken two main parties over UK politics. But, as I said after the European elections results were declared, to realise this goal a few things need to happen.
The Remain forces need to work even more closely together – we are already doing this in parliament but we must build on that. Most importantly, the centre ground at the next general election must decide how we work together, in whatever form, instead of competing against each other. We need to regroup and consolidate activity to maximise our impact – a key lesson of the European elections. This is particularly the case given Westminster elections are determined by a first-past-the-post system that works against third parties.
I am clear that there is currently not one single force in the Remain movement or in the centre ground that can stop Brexit or break the two-party system on its own. The movement built around Change UK has an important role to play in this . However, whilst I believe it should carry on as an organisation, I do not believe Change UK should carry on in its current form. This has put me in a fundamentally different place not only to other Change UK parliamentary colleagues but also it’s activists and candidates who should be free to take the party in the direction they wish. Consequently, with a heavy heart, I have decided to leave the party and to return to sitting as an independent MP in the House of Commons for the time being.
I am immensely proud to have played a part in establishing the party, have nothing but respect for Change UK’s MPs, staff, candidates and supporters, and wish them well in the future. I will of course work with them on the common causes we all have.
Going forward I will continue to focus on stopping Brexit, halting the drift of our politics to the extremes, and helping to fix the problems which led so many to vote for Brexit in the first place, because that is in the best interests of my constituents – my priority – and the country.