Change UK MPs could be questioning the directions of their careers today, an expert warned after the group failed to make a mark in the European elections.
That’s the view of leading politics professor Tim Bale, after Change UK – formed earlier this year by disgruntled Labour and Conservative MPs – suffered at the polls after failing to garner enough support.
With 371 of 373 counts complete this morning, Change UK had no MEPs, with a vote share of 3.4 per cent and 571,716 votes, second last in the running order ahead of UKIP.
Prof Bale, who works at Queen Mary, University of London, said the party is now facing a grim future just three months after forming: “They would be lucky to be picked up by the Lib Dems [in a coalition].”
The party suffered a number of gaffes during the campaign, including its lead Scottish candidate quitting and urging voters to back the Lib Dems instead and Joan Ryan’s “look at your hands speech” being compared to The Office character David Brent.
Meanwhile, two of its initial candidates resigned over offensive social media posts and the party was roundly mocked over its tour bus design, which was compared to a Microsoft Word document.
I didn't know you could print a Word document straight onto a bus https://t.co/XjcVn5HULy— Henry Mance (@henrymance)13 May 2019
But Prof Bale told the Standard there were numerous other deep-lying factors behind Change UK’s struggles.
"They made a series of mistakes with branding. And everything Change UK got wrong with branding, the Brexit Party got right: a very clear message and a good logo.
“And Change UK doesn’t have anyone as charismatic or publicity grabbing as Nigel Farage to lead it.”
'Not a natural home'
“The Brexit Party has benefited from Theresa May making such a Horlicks of Brexit, and not being seen to be delivering a hard Brexit.
"That means Brexiteers looking for a vote to send a message to the Conservative Party, and the Brexit Party fills that space.”
'Tory and Labour struggles'
“Coverage of the two main parties has drowned them out.
“You might have expected the two main parties being in such trouble would help, but it’s taken away a lot of the attention from Change UK.”
'Lib Dem resurgence'
“The fact the Lib Dems are being forgiven for the coalition government seems quite important.
“Where Change UK might have envisaged being a senior partner in a merger, that now looks ridiculously ambitious. They would be lucky to be picked up by the Lib Dems.”
'Too much, too young'
“It’s also the case that this [European elections] came too early for them.
“I wonder whether they [the Labour and Tory defectors] were planning to join as soon as they did, and to be thrown straight into an election before they were really ready.
“The other problem is that it’s very hard as a new party to respond to allegations that you don’t have any clear policies.”
'Tom Watson effect'
“I think Tom Watson taking such a stand on Brexit and anti-Semitism [the two key issues for the eight Labour MPs defecting] has meant quite a lot of Labour MPs have chosen to stay put.”
'So, what does the future hold?'
“I don’t think it’s necessarily the death knell. But if Change UK only gets one or two per cent of the vote, and doesn’t get any MEPs, you would have to say it’s a failure to launch, not even leaving the runway.
“Some of them will be wondering whether to call it a day and realising they made a terrible mistake. It’s difficult to see it as anything other than a career ending decision.
“The Lib Dems have taken on momentum which will be very difficult for Change UK to grab back.
“Anybody who was thinking of leaving will see what happened and think: ‘Nah!’ It will be so difficult to exert a magnetic force."