Last week I wrote on my blog about how the government’s response to Covid-19 had been, to borrow a phrase from Jeremy Clarkson, ‘ambitious but rubbish’. The article focussed on how the government had failed, ‘The Generations who Lost’.
The primary conclusion drawn from the writing of the article was that we need a new political party; one founded by Millennials and Generation Z-ers from both sides of the Brexit divide.
The pressing need for a new party is my belief that the current opposition is not up to the challenge of a post-Covid Britain.
The Liberal Democrats are tainted by two things. Firstly, the student fees scandal of 2011. They joined the Conservatives in a coalition ten years ago promising student fees would not go up. Come 2011 and the fees tripled — something a generation of voters will not let them forget and what will haunt them for decades.
Furthermore, they attached their colours to the mast of a ship which sank. In the years between the EU Referendum and 2019 Generation Election they put themselves at the forefront of the pro-2nd Referendum agenda. Along with several Labour members, rebel Conservative MPs and the People’s Vote, they bravely campaigned for a second say.
Over the course of two general elections they stuck by that Referendum Round 2 stance. However, after the most recent vote, in the early hours of Friday 13, their proverbial ship sank.
Labour is a slightly trickier proposition because despite suffering their worst defeat since the 1930s they remain the strongest opposition party. They have a new leader too, in the shape of former lawyer Sir Keir Starmer who has stood up well against the Conservatives in PMQs.
But behind its brand-new face lies a party riddled with issues. In a recent report it was described as ‘hyper factional’ and faired poorly in how it had dealt with reports of anti-Semitism. In an article published on The Guardian’s website recently, Momentum stated that:
‘It is critical that the inquiry focus on the very serious allegations of racism, sexism, senior staff members trying to sabotage Labour’s 2017 general election campaign and a failure to pursue anti-Semitism cases’.
You might say that the obvious candidate then is centrist party Renew. Set up by James’s Torrance and Clarke. It is built on the basis that its candidates are not career politicians but come from different backgrounds, thereby bringing unique expertise and perspectives.
On the surface then Renew looks to be the chosen party. However, it is tainted by two factors. The fact that it was set up in a period when both Remainers and Leavers were at rhetorical war with each other, and how it dropped candidates as part of the poorly organised progressive vote during the 2019 General Election.
The new party I am envisioning, formed in a time of crisis, should be about former-Leavers and former-Remainers from Generation Millennial and Generation Z coming together to fill the centre. After all, just because you voted Leave does not mean you only believe in values from the right. Likewise, those that voted Remain do not necessarily exclusively believe in values from the left.
Both, as they did before the EU Referendum, can happily occupy the centre ground.
This party, like all others starting out should have short-term and long-term goals. In the short term, it should campaign for a 12-month extension to the Brexit transition period — which Britain is legally allowed to request.
Short term, Covid-19 will leave this country in a far worse position than us having left with a no deal. This is why we need an extension, to give the country the best possible chance to recover economically from the hibernation caused by the pandemic. And we will certainly need the help of our European allies.
To clarify, this would not be an attempt to stop Brexit. We are leaving, the 2019 election result convinced me of that. Yet it would be a way to ease the economic pain caused by our departure, and to give businesses more time and greater opportunity to repair and prepare.
It is incredible, even with the Covid-19 pandemic the government still intends to stick to its Brexit schedule — even stating that it would refuse an extension if the EU offered one. This is like a student trying to write their entire dissertation in the hour before its due with a broken typewriter. It will not work. But even if it does, the job will be a rushed and poor one. And we do not want it to be a rushed and poor effort.
Whether or not the above is achieved, we must begin preparation for the 2022 Council Elections and December 2024 General Election. We must get kitted out for politics post-pandemic, arm ourselves and others with the ability to fight misinformation, and gain a grip over the facts and timeline of the government’s Covid-19 failings.
And not just Covid-19. Under the Conservatives university tuition tripled, the NHS received more cuts than an oversupplied butcher and youth services suffered funding cuts of up to 70 per cent. The country endured harsh austerity, and it took a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic for the Conservatives to speedily reverse their cuts and adopt almost Labour-like policies.
We cannot let the government sweep away their failures under hollow slogans. For some of you Covid-19 has taken away your family members, your job, and perhaps even your health and future.
When this is over it stands on us to be better than those that tripped us head-first into this catastrophe. By 2024, there must be an opposition coalition strong enough to take on the Conservatives in a general election, and win.
At the beginning of this article I referred to the generations who lost during this pandemic — a reference to the Lost Generation of World War One. We are of course not identical with that wounded generation, but we are the generations who have lost opportunities and potential prosperity. In which case, wouldn’t it be nice to stop losing for once?