On Change UK’s inadequacies, political agreements and missing Scots

On Change UK’s inadequacies, political agreements and missing Scots

I WAS much impressed by Heidi Allen’s first speech when she left the Conservative Party to join the Independent Group, now known as the Change UK Party. How could the Conservative high command have ignored such a prodigious talent? But I’m afraid I was very much underwhelmed by her performance at a Beer and Brexit debate on May 14th, organised by King’s College, London. Ms Allen is now the acting leader of Change UK. But even as her job title has grown she seems to have shrunk as a politician. Gently interrogated by Anand Menon, the reigning Brexit guru at King’s, she produced a succession of bland and vague answers that suggested that she’s not capable of either rigorous thought or vigorous organisation.

Ms Allen regurgitated a splattering of good-government platitudes about how Britain needs to be much better at harnessing expertise. Politics should be run more like a business. Parties should take an inventory of the skills and talents of each new intake of MPs. Parliament is run like an old-fashioned gentleman’s club, and so on and so forth. There’s some sense in this—particularly about the skills inventory. But isn’t calling for politics to be run more like a business a bit old hat for a party that presents itself as a change-agent? Donald Trump ran on the promise of using his skills as a businessman to shake up Washington, DC in 2016, and Silvio Berlusconi said the same about Rome in the 1990s. And isn’t the boss of Change UK rather badly placed to call for a more business-like approach to politics? The party has lurched from one disaster to another: failing to establish a brand; faffing about over its name; publicly disagreeing over policies; producing ridiculously slip-shod campaign literature; and, in every way conceivable, allowing itself to be out-performed, out-organised, and out-thought by what is supposed to be the party of out-of-touch bigots, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

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