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Robert Halfon: "Broadly, the Red Tories and Blue Labour have much in common" (Chris McAndrew CC BY-3.0)

Almost every day you read of some plot — the latest being in a fancy hotel in Sussex — of plans for a new anti-Brexit, Blairite, Corporatist “third way” party (let’s call  it the ABBC) that counters Corbynista extremism on the one side and Brexiteer fanaticism on the other. But such a centrist party would not work, for a number of reasons.

First, there is such a party already — the Liberal Democrats. It’s worth reminding ourselves it’s called “Democrat” precisely because of the social democrats who broke away from Labour during its last dalliance with the far Left in the 1980s under the leadership of Michael Foot.

According to the views of the ABBCs, the Liberal Democrats should be streets ahead in the polls, capturing all the pro-EU sentiment in its wake. The opposite has happened: the two main parties’ leaderships (admittedly in different degrees) say that “Brexit means Brexit” and are level-pegging in the polls at 35-40 per cent. Some of this may be down to the weak leadership of the Liberal Democrats, but it cannot be the only reason. It raises the question: why would a shiny new ABBC version of the Liberal Democrats be any better, except that it might be newer and fresher, for a while at least? The ABBC might also attract New Labour grandees like Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie — interesting but hardly household names.

The second reason that an ABBC party would not work is simple: this is not where the argument is. Once Britain leaves the European Union next year, what is done will be done. It’s true there could be a reverse UKIP movement created, designed to get Britain back into the EU, but what real support would it have, other than in larger metropolitan areas?

The real breaking point post-Brexit lies between Red Tories and Blue Labour on one side and ABBCs/Liberal Democrats on the other. On the fringes will be hardcore libertarians/free-marketeers on the Tory Right or more authoritarian UKIPers and no- compromise Corbynistas on the Left, but the real battle will be between those two opposing groups.

Red Tories are different from the old one-nation paternalists, whose “squires” came down from the mountain to hand out bread to the workers. Blue Labour supporters are distinct from the metropolitan, politically correct “Islington Labour” in as much as they are from the Fabian socialist centrist tradition.
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