POLITICS

Politics Advancing: All You Need To Know About The Newest Party Preparing For Local Elections

'We want people to feel their vote counts.'

10/11/2017 15:50 GMT
Annabel Mullin
Annabel Mullin, founder of new party Advance 

If the events of the last few weeks in Westminster have taught us anything, it’s that politics as we know it has taken a huge hit. 

It has been badly damaged - maybe irreparably so - not just by shocking allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, but by deep divisions years in the forging and an ever-growing sense of mistrust towards mainstream politicians - and their parties - from huge sections of the public expected to vote for them.

Wracked with election fatigue, the next time (some) British voters will go to the polls - at least at the time of writing - will be to choose their local councillors next May.

Local elections have long acted as a barometer for the mood within politics as a whole - albeit with varying degrees of accuracy - so if there is to be a shift away from ‘traditional’ politics, some hints may well be provided in spring 2018.

Nowhere will this be more passionately - and painfully - played out than in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Home to the wreckage of Grenfell Tower and one of the most devastating tragedies in modern British history, it has seen political decisions and their fallout up closer than many of us ever will. 

PA Wire/PA Images

The deaths of scores of residents inside their homes in the North Kensington tower block brought into sharp focus the things that are most important to many  - social justice, fairness and the value of human life.  

It was against this backdrop that Annabel Mullin, a former Lib Dem candidate, decided to quit her party and strike out on her own. 

The mum-of-three, together with a handful of others, formed Advance - a new political movement and soon-to-be official party that will make its debut in the borough’s council elections.

She told HuffPost UK: “I’ve always had a really strong connection with Kensington and Chelsea, because I grew up there, my parents still live there and I go there most days as my son’s school is there.

“After spending two years campaigning as a Lib Dem candidate, I felt we were moving away from a balanced approach in politics as a whole and seeing extreme versions grow in popularity.

“I like the idea of a balanced approach – looking after social issues and the economy, as I feel they are both fundamental to helping communities flourish.”

Mullin, who worked with prisoners with mental health issues before moving into politics, says Advance is currently funded by its supporters – who range from former Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative members to those who have never joined a political party before.

The Advance partys logo
The new Advance party's logo

“The people who have joined us from Labour and the Conservatives have had a bit of a hard time from their original parties, with some nasty comments, which is sad and just reinforces the need for an alternative,” she said.

In my previous role, I felt like I was often picking up the pieces of political incompetence.

“What happened with Grenfell, and the response to it, just made me think we can do things so much better.  The community as a whole responded much better to that situation than all of the institutions and organisations.

“There have long been failings on a local and national level, and the whole approach and set up for this movement is the idea of systematic difference; continuous engagement with the community, collaboration and a constant exchange of ideas and discussion.

“Institutional politics as we know it appears to have lost its ability to listen, and to hear what is going on.

“People feel unheard all the time, and that’s how we ended up with decisions like Brexit.”

Advance, which held its official ‘launch’ in early November, will field its first candidates in Kensington and Chelsea, before expanding “if what we are doing seems to have legs”.

Those who want to get involved in the movement will be asked to make a small donation and make additional contributions in terms of “money, skill or time”.

PA Wire/PA Images
Kensington's Labour MP Emma Dent Coad with London Mayor Sadiq Khan and a police officer during the post-Grenfell fire Notting Hill Carnival 

Mullin, 39, added: “We may make mistakes, as all political movements do, but we will learn from them and get better.

“I think it is time for a complete overhaul of the political system.  We currently have politicians strung together because of power and the first past the post system, but that is not properly representing people.

“If we have to sit with UKIP at the table, fine. We may not necessarily be thrilled about that, but they are representing what some people want.  I want everyone to feel like their vote counts.” 

Meanwhile Labour, which seized power in Kensington and Chelsea in a shock snap election victory, is gearing up its own efforts in the borough.

The party has plans to bus in activists from other parts of the city in a bid to oust the ruling Conservatives, who it is though are having difficulties sourcing willing candidates in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy. 

Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington, whose stunning election victory on June 8 made headlines, said the party now boasts a slick and sizeable ground operation. 

Dent Coad views Advance simply as “former Lib Dems” banding together and insists their own party’s door-knocking efforts will be relentless.  

“We have been campaigning since the summer every weekend and working hard in all wards, including the ones we already hold,” she said.“The Conservatives are a toxic brand in the borough. 

“We have respect for the electorate and will continue to work very hard between now and the elections.”