With Labour and the Conservatives offering very similar views on Brexit, with a growing number of Remain voters feeling unheard in negotiations with the EU and British politics becoming more polarised than ever, there is talk of whether there is a space for a new centrist pro-Brexit party (ignoring the fact that the Liberal Democrats still exist…).
Renew, one of Britain’s newest political parties, hopes to fill that space and is contesting this week’s local elections in some areas, hoping to pressure the two main parties on Brexit. Unlike the major parties, the self-described ‘UKIP of the centre’ has crowdfunded their election campaign and has opened up applications to become a candidate to anyone who has an interest in the party.
Head of Communications Sandra Khadhouri defended the need for a new party, saying: “Millions of Remain voters have nowhere to go, given the two major parties are pursuing Brexit and the Liberal Democrats are unable to mobilise enough support. Other voters too are disappointed with the main parties, who are polarised, and responding to the extremes of their own party.”
The party is calling for a second referendum on leaving the European Union, scrap tuition fees for subjects in science and technology, start a policy of aggressive house-building to deal with the housing crisis, and invest in infrastructure and research labs in vital technologies to ensure Britain leads the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.
“It is only democratic that people have a chance to have their say”
However, like the Liberal Democrats, the party has come under fire from some who claim that they are ignoring the will of the people after 52% voted to leave the EU in June 2016. Rebutting this suggestion, Ms Khadhouri said: “We fully support the multitude of reasons behind the [Brexit] vote, which was partly about grievance at inequality and a rigged system that has not worked for them.
“[However], it is concerning that there is not enough consensus for such a difficult move, with such a narrow majority and a remain vote from Northern Ireland and Scotland. Full information was not on the table as to the alternative model of membership, which is not even clear now! The issues of Ireland, security, the EU’s role in areas like environment and human rights, were never discussed. Therefore, it is only democratic that people have a chance to have their say.”
She adds: “We realise that we cannot just ask people to rethink their Brexit decision and go back to the status quo, so we must propose a new vision for the future, a new social contract, that connects people back to politics and empowers them, so they feel they have more say in Westminister and their lives.”
One of the more stand-out policies of Renew is its pledge to introduce a universal basic income “so that every person has the financial security to follow their dreams.”
“The country needs a new economic deal to create opportunity and investment in areas that have not progressed as well as others in the country”, Ms Khadhouri explained.
“Only a structural rebalancing of the economy and attention paid to under-funded pockets of the country, and groups of people, will start to restore our cohesion.”
Party founder Chris Coghlan, a former counter-terrorism officer working against ISIS, cited Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! as inspiration for Renew. Speaking to the Evening Standard, he said: “I wouldn’t have had the confidence to walk out of my job in the Foreign Office if I hadn’t seen En Marche! do it.”
Renew is standing candidates in every ward for Wandsworth Borough Council, an area where Coghlan got 2.2% as an independent in Battersea in last year’s general election and has already seen one councillor defect to the party. As a strongly Remain borough, the anti-Brexit party is hoping to do well and put pressure particularly on the Conservatives, who currently have a majority on the council.
“We’re noticing much stronger support as the most active anti-Brexit party here. People are angry and… they’re coming to us as a serious and credible alternative”, Coghlan told the Metro.
The party is also standing candidates in Tower Hamlets, Ealing, Hounslow and Greenwich, as well as North Tyneside. Whether this Thursday becomes their first election breakthrough remains to be seen.