We built Renew to change British politics. Now it’s time to back our European alliance

Our political system is creaking and at risk of collapse. The professionals have failed to fix it, which is why our DIY approach has proved so refreshing.

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

The Renew Party has been making a minor splash in the media over the past two weeks following our electoral alliance with Change UK – The Independent Group. Unfortunately, this news prompted former Renew founder Chris Coghlan to pen a somewhat intemperate critique in The Staggers last week. In the spirit of openness, we think it is important to set the record straight.

Renew was founded in late 2017, more than three months after the general election of that summer. Since then, our project of wide-ranging reform has inspired people across the country to get involved in politics. We have recruited, vetted and trained over 150 candidates nationwide and built a regional network of activists, coordinators and paying members – ordinary people from outside politics who have abandoned the ideological straightjackets of left and right. We conducted a lengthy Listen To Britain tour, conducted over 5,000 surveys and visited many of the most Leave-voting towns in the country in order to better understand the underlying causes of our divisive new politics.

Further to this, Renew has made a statement at the highest levels of national politics. Coghlan writes that Renew “got hammered in the recent Newport West by-election”, which is an odd interpretation: 3.7 per cent of the popular vote in a Leave-voting Welsh constituency hardly constitutes a hammering for a young, relatively unknown pro-European party after just five weeks of campaigning. Indeed, it took Ukip 17 by-elections to achieve a comparable result.

Renew’s hard work in Newport with our inspiring candidate, June Davies, earned us significant exposure in the national press and, more importantly, local Welsh commentators were impressed with the party’s strategic campaign and effective outreach programme. Hundreds of people who had never heard of Renew even a fortnight before election day ended up entrusting us with a cross on their ballot papers.

In light of such a positive story, it’s difficult to understand why some appear so keen to disparage a party that is helping the “Remain Alliance” to succeed in the upcoming European elections.

Working together for the good of the UK is much more important than petty point-scoring against former colleagues. Nothing will change if we don’t open up avenues for new voices to be heard in the British and European parliaments. To do that, we need to set aside the hateful rhetoric that currently has so much influence on the national debate around Brexit and our nation’s future.

But however you feel about Renew and Change UK, it’s clear that the mood of UK voters is not for rewarding the Conservatives, Labour or the Lib Dems, which is hardly surprising, given their performance in recent years.

The truth is that our political system is creaking and at risk of collapse. The professionals have failed to fix it, which is why our DIY approach has proved so refreshing to so many. While it is easy to criticise those who want to start again from scratch, it is much harder to dedicate time and effort to rebuilding the foundations.

It is quite clearly time for something new. The electorate deserves an alternative, and those of us working to build it deserve better critics than this.

James Clarke is deputy leader of Renew. James Dilley is the party's communications officer.