Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

The dog days of July probably aren't the best time to launch a new political movement, but then the people who campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum aren't known for their media savvy. Consequently, Paddy Ashdown made a surprise appearance on Marr last Sunday to announce the creation of More United, a 'tech-driven political start-up' that takes its name from a phrase the late Jo Cox MP used in her maiden speech: 'We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.'

More United's website doesn't explicitly say that the organisation's raison d'être is to overturn the result of the referendum. Rather, this is hidden away in a section called 'Example policies'. One of the core principles that More United revolves around is that it's pro-immigration and wants a close relationship with the EU and, as an example of what that might mean in policy terms, it says: 'Campaign for Britain to return to full membership of the EU.'

Why bury this in the small print? After all, none of the people listed as the organisation's 'convenors' (progressive speak for 'celebrity backers') have made any secret of their opposition to Brexit -- Simon Schama, for instance. And, presumably, the reason for launching last Sunday is because it was exactly one month after the referendum result.

Perhaps this coyness is because rejecting the outcome of one of the largest democratic exercises in our nation's history sits oddly with More United's commitment to democracy, another core principle. To make matters worse, a second policy it recommends is reform of the voting system. So it wants to reverse the result of the AV referendum as well? Or maybe Paddy Ashdown and his fellow 'convenors' changed their minds about making opposition to Brexit the rallying cry of More United when they saw last week's poll showing that only 29 per cent of the British electorate want a second referendum.

One of the most obvious objections to More United is that it's not a genuine cross-party initiative, as it purports to be, but just the Lib Dems by another name, which brings me to the third democratic result Ashdown would like to overturn: namely, last year's general election, which saw the number of Lib Dem MPs reduced from 57 to eight. …

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