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The problem with a new party – neither Tory left nor Labour right wants to play

Even before you get to the question of how well a new party would do, the appetite is not there among MPs. 

There is not a lot that worries Team Corbyn these days, but the prospect of a new party of the centre is one. They don’t think this party would do well enough to overtake Labour, let alone win an election in its own right, but they fear that it would take a large enough chunk out of the Labour vote to deprive them of victory at the next election.

That private fear has turned into public debate after a series of tweets by James Chapman, a former aide to George Osborne, called for MPs of all parties who know that Brexit will be a disaster to “unite”, in a new party if necessary, to prevent it from taking place.

The debate is slightly bizarre, because ultimately, the appetite is not there among the group that really matters: Labour MPs on that party’s right and Conservative MPs on that party’s left. To take the former first: for reasons of both strategy and sentiment, most Corbynsceptic Labour MPs are opposed to any breakaway. On a strategic level, the success of Corbyn at the election shows, they believe, that the space on the left for any new party is limited in the extreme. On an emotional level, a combination of love and hatred keeps MPs in the tent: an emotional attachment to Labour, its history, its leaders and its tradition, and an aversion to letting the party fall into the hands of the leadership permanently.

On the Conservative left, there is more willingness to talk about a new party, but no more appetite to make the jump. (One thing that frustrates Labour’s pro-single market MPs is a willingness on the Tory side to, as one parliamentarian puts it, “to write pieces on Red Box or give sad interviews but not actually commit to anything”, be that voting with them on pro-European issues or even remaining part of Open Britain, the cross-party campaign to keep Britain’s single market membership.)

It's worth noting, too, that Conservative MPs who might discuss a new party know that they are unlikely to have their bluff called by Labour MPs. It's fairly safe for Anna Soubry to say it's "time to get on with" forming a new party – she wouldn't even stay in Open Britain the moment the idea of working to keep pro-Remain MPs in the House of Commons was floated. 

There is undoubtedly a chunk of the Labour Party membership and ex-membership that would be willing activists in a new, pro-Remain party. But without leaders, they don’t really have anywhere to go. That could change if there are wholescale deselections of sitting Labour MPs, but for a variety of reasons, that is unlikely to happen.  

There are then, of course, further questions about how well any new party would actually do. But all that is secondary: because the appetite to create one, let alone vote for one, is very small. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.