Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Brief: We need to talk about centrist parties

Macron, the leader of the french centrist movement En Marche, walking in the sun

The Brief  is a breakdown of the forces driving the headlines, and what you can do to make a difference

Catch up Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party, there have been murmurings (mostly by people who need to sell newspapers) about the likelihood of a new centrist party being formed to capture the ‘centre’ ground between Theresa May and Corbyn.

What’s really happening A lot of these analyses seem to forget the fact that the centrist anti-Brexit party they’re imagining already exists – it’s called the Liberal Democrats. And nobody seems to like them. Regardless, the idea is based on the assumption that our political spectrum is linear, and that the centre-ground of the 1990s still exists in the same form today.

But when you look at the breakdown of the data, as PhD student Nick Barlow has, it’s clear that people who think of themselves as ‘centrist’ actually lean economically left, and authoritarian right. Tough on crime, but good on welfare and the NHS. A centrist party that would most likely be fiscally conservative but socially liberal, is far from the real centre ground.

People are saying Wes Streeting speaking at Progress’ Lab18 rally: ‘When I read about the latest internet millionaire who has decided to set up their own political party, or those who fancy setting up the British En Marche, but lack a Macron, forgive me if I think less ‘Gang of Four’ and more ‘Gang of Snore’. Centrist parties are like buses. You wait 30 years and then three come along at once. And these buses are on the road to nowhere.’

What next One of the main ideas to come out of Lib Dem conference was that their next leader might not be an MP. This is part of Vince Cable’s attempt at legacy building – handing over the party to a fresh new generation of outsiders to create a ‘movement of moderates’ (yuck). Vince managed to then get in the way of his own momentum by saying that he wasn’t going to stand down any time soon – you have to feel sorry for the Lib Dems sometimes.

In terms of brand new centrist parties: yes, there are still too many of them, yes, they all have ridiculous names, and no, none of them are worth talking about.

Be a progressive If you believe in progressive politics there is a very simple way to get a progressive government. Be a Labour party member. Be a Progress member. Show up at your CLPs and make your voice heard.

Also, listen to the ‘exotic spresm’ that is the Progressive Britain podcast. I mean, you’re probably doing that already – you’re smarter than that.


Stefan Rollnick is the editorial assistant at Progress. He tweets @StefanRollnick


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