Centrism as political vapourware

Nick Barlow
5 min readJan 8, 2019

Across many fields there’s a regular occurrence of people announcing that they’re soon going to be launching something that’s Big and New and Different and Will Definitely Change Everything. “Soon” never gets officially quantified to anything more specific than “in a few months” but it’s always really close, honest, so just hold on in there and, oh, if you happen to be an investor we might just need a little bit more funding to get over the line, but the payoffs will be huge.

In politics, this type of vapourware has normally applied to individual policies in various forms, be they the think tank trailing a really challenging paper, the party telling journalists to just wait until they see the manifesto or the government promising that there’s definitely going to be a White Paper on that issue sometime in this Parliament. Now, though, we appear to have someone creating a whole political party on the principles of vapourware.

Since the collapse of the Liberal Democrats at the 2015 election and the election of Jeremy Corbyn soon after, many people have declared that what British politics really needs right now is a brand new centrist party, a chorus given additional voices after the Brexit referendum. Various people have tried to set one up (or proposed turning an existing party into a “movement for moderates”) and there have also been various rumblings that some Very Important (And/Or Rich) People have been working on putting together their very own Brand New Centrist Thing which is always about to be launched Really Really Soon.

Which brings us to the Times and a couple of puff-pieces it’s recently published on United For Change, the proposed new centrist party that appears to exist in order to take the politics out of politics. As one of its founders says: “We won’t look like, we won’t sound like, we won’t behave like the existing political parties. We will act and sound like real people, who just want to do something good for their country.” And if that doesn’t sound vacuous enough, just wait until you hear about their policies.

No, I mean you’ll just have to wait until you hear about their policies because they don’t have any. Let’s look at social care, for instance:

Policy will be set by using technology to canvas the opinions of experts and workers. “We’ve got a…

Nick Barlow

Former academic and politician, now walking, cycling and working out what comes next. https://linktr.ee/nickbarlow