This piece was first published on Monday 13th May – unfortunately these luxury odds on Change UK and Lib Dems performance are no longer available.
Three months ago, they were the biggest story in Westminster. A group of high-profile defectors from Labour and the Conservatives, standing for moderation, centrism and cross-party collaboration in an era of unprecedented division. Finally Change UK, or the party formerly known as The Independent Group or TIG, will face their first electoral test at the Euros.
Expectations are falling fast and accordingly, the betting odds with the best political betting sites aren’t exactly positive either. On the morning that seven Labour MPs defected, parallels were widely drawn with the 1980s and the SDP – a breakaway of four Labour defectors which soon morphed into an alliance with the Liberals, specialising in by-election upsets and regularly polling beyond 20%.
Poor strategy destroyed early optimism
There are numerous reasons for their failure to date, much of which is self-inflicted. They only recently decided on a name and even that simple process was problematic. They failed to register in time for the local elections – the perfect setting for any new or protest party. They haven’t even got a candidate for next month’s Peterborough By-Election.
Any small party faces an uphill struggle being noticed or heard. Support from celebrities outside politics could have achieved that and there were early rumours of J.K. Rowling taking a role.
Nothing materialised so instead, they CUK became merely synonymous with Remainer rebels whose support for Labour or the Tories was no longer tenable. The fact none called a by-election – which any of them would struggle to win – handed opponents an easy target.
So does a lack of policies beyond Brexit. It has become easy for opponents as self-important opportunists, obsessed with Brexit and offering no answers to wider problems. The Left called them Tory-lite while the Right dismissed them as anti-democratic ‘Remoaners’. The likes of Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry became hate figures to many Labour and Tory voters.