Can Renew become the UK’s En Marche?

At a time of political complexity, divisions amongst the nation have never been stronger. The Conservatives are over-influenced by the hard-right, Labour are split between centrists and the left, the Lib Dems are failing to pick up any ground, and UKIP face extinction.

And then there’s Renew, a new centrist anti Brexit party.

Yet Renew have the hope of becoming the UK’s Macron, sweeping in and swooning over voters in quick succession. Their main aim: to persuade the British people to remain in the EU. Renew are not another UKIP-esque party, however and won’t stop after succeeding to keep the UK in the EU. Renew have plans to make the UK an ‘innovation superpower’, give every citizen the right to opportunity, create a ‘green economic model’ to save the planet, end extreme poverty and boost hard and soft national security resources.

I had the chance to ask Sandra Khadhouri, one of Renew’s three ‘principals’, some questions about her party.

Renew was established, Khadhouri tells me, in Autumn 2017 by independent candidates who stood in 2017’s Snap Election and were quickly joined by individuals from the worlds of business, development, media, and economy.

“We are all alarmed by the UK government’s short-sighted decision to take the country out of the EU on the back of a narrow referendum result which was poorly designed and handled. Together, the founding members developed our political philosophy and roadmap; to persuade the British people to remain in the EU so we can address their underlying grievances more effectively.”

Subsequently, Khadhouri says that Renew want to give better opportunities to those who get left behind to give those a more positive future for them and their childing, which involves “a rebalancing of our economy, more investment in public services and infrastructure in ignored areas, and efforts to reinvigorate areas of the country that have seen decline and lower living standards.”

“We also want to drive progress and prosperity, including in our major cities, and keep up to date with the world’s fast-moving developments, for example in technology, ensuring that these benefits and opportunities reach everyone in Britain. We want to support business and our entrepreneurial spirit and ensure Britain is open to free trade and development with Europe and the world.”

Renew also believe in “tolerance, equal rights, minority rights, and good inter-community/interfaith relationships” and plan “an emphasis on social care and making life easier for those marginalised in our society.” Furthermore, Khadhouri highlights that environmental issues are “hugely important to us”; Khadhouri thinks Britain could “tap into new technologies and regional and global solutions in these areas. Green energy is also going to be a focus.”

This party is not simply for Remain voters; Khadhouri says that “we want to represent the whole country – Remainers and Brexiters, North and South, old and young – we recognise that those who prefer to remain in the EU may initially be our core supporters. However, we have an offer for all voters – we will address their problems directly, since leaving EU will only make things worse for them too”.

Khadhouri believes that more and more people are realising this and particularly points out the ‘disastrous’ handling of negotiations by May and her Cabinet. She thinks that many ‘are understanding the positives of remaining in the EU which they didn’t know before’.

Is it possible that there is a difference between Renew and our current political parties?

“We are new and have to create a new relationship with the population which means we need to ask again what they think about what’s working and what’s not, and what gives them hope.’ Khadhouri also states that this is where our current political parties have gone wrong, who are ‘out of touch with what people want…too focused on the Westminster bubble’. And, of course, Renew are pro-EU, whilst the Conservatives and Labour remain confused on this issue.

I ask Khadhouri how she thinks Renew will sway voters from all parties: “I think there is an appetite for something new, to lead people out of this mess. We are willing to go back to the drawing board, through our Listen to Britain tour around the country, and have a series of engagements and discussions about what people really want.

“We know this is working because of the support we are receiving which has grown exponentially…we now have nearly 1000 candidate applications in just a few short months, which we are still processing. people from every walk of life – journalists, economists, artists, single mothers, working fathers, stay at home parents, retirees, students, health workers, a fireman!”

Khadhouri adds that the party has ‘dozens of expert special advisors’ who help on policy committees, 600 volunteers who have helped the party, and ‘hundreds of emails from people  sharing pages of ideas on how to renew the country and their communities.

“We have tapped into something here and we must build on that.”

I was concerned that a range of occupations would struggle in a political sphere. “No, all our candidates are itching for the chance to stand up for what they believe in,” Khadhouri tells me. “The idea of Renewing Britain and their communities, and being part of a new vision for their country, is galvanising them into action – this is what keeps us going as a party.

“We know that we can bring fresh ideas from the grassroots of our society, borne out of commitment to the welfare of our country, and tapping into the myriad experts we have on hand and an excellent civil service. We are drawing on best practise from UK, Europe and abroad. For our candidates, we are planning a training programme this year, and they do receive further training once they are voted in.”

Part of Renew’s plan is to invest in areas outside of London, but I had spotted that James Clarke, the second ‘principal’ of the three, had run as an Independent in 2017 with a ‘pro-London’ campaign.

“In 2017, James stood in the General Election as an independent candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and sought to address the issues that affected his area as any local MP would. However, as Renew is now a national party, he is concerned not only with not only fixing his constituency but the country in general. Any candidate would want the best for their area as well as defending the national interest.

“We do feel the need to rebalance investment and resource outside the capital, so that other areas of Britain can become centres of excellence and research. We also recognise that London, like all our other great cities, need support to continue as vibrant hubs for business, finance, creativity, tourism, research, and innovation. This boosts growth which can then be used to benefit the country as a whole.”

So what do we think of Renew?

Firstly, I think they are spot on when it comes to how much Britain needs the EU. The Remain campaign, and even present politicians, fail to recognise that the financial burden of Brexit means the UK will have less money than we currently do and, thus, a narrower capacity to resolve our issues. We either pursue Brexit, or we lose the NHS. If Renew really push this message across to the electorate, they could potentially make substantial gains.

Renew’s other policies seem very reasonable too. The referendum has show the rise of populism in the UK; Renew’s overemphasis of ‘listening to the people’ is a fantastic way to respond to this. We are yet to see the results of this policy in play but, with time, I would hope that Renew could use this efficiently and not stray away to the ‘Westminster bubble’ like Labour and the Conservatives have.

Fairness, equality and sustainability are exactly what Britain needs.

However, I’m concerned with how successfully Renew will actually manage to sway current party supporters. The Conservatives and Labour have voters who have voted blue or red for their entire lives. Will Renew actually sway these loyal British voters? Furthermore, Renew could damage the left wing of the UK’s political spectrum; if they resonate too strongly with the likes of Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Greens, Renew might become their own worst enemy and end up helping the Conservatives to a larger majority in individual constituency elections due to our first-past-the-post electorate system.

Funding is also of concern. Renew are currently running a Crowdfunder to help with their finances. However, Renew will need to attract multiple large party donors to really accelerate their chances of electoral success. While the majority of donations to the Labour Party are not million pound gifts from wealthy backers, they have the support of the Unions and The Conservative Party are infamous for their huge donations from big business.

Their first chance to stamp their place on Britain’s electorate is May’s local elections. This will be a huge indicator into the success of the party and if nothing else help to put their name on the map.

Personally, I would love for Renew to strive. Renew bring a new approach to British politics which is needed. Blurred visions, false promises and lies are all too common in current British politics. Renew’s offer to include the entirety of Britain is a huge undertaking. However this is a task which someone needs to take on. It is a task which will clear away the political smokescreens which we now experience to pick Britain back up on to its feet.

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