Could Brexit See the Birth of a New Political Party?

29/06/2016 13:01 | Updated 29 June 2016

It's not the pound that we should be worried about in these tumultuous times. Markets will recover, the economy will adjust to a post-Brexit reality, and we will find a way of protecting jobs, trade and investment.

This is a political earthquake far more than an economic one.

If the political careers of David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn were stocks and shares, everyone would have dumped the lot by 9am on Friday 24th.

At a time when we need certainty and security, the two main political parties have given us the opposite. Power struggles, political coups, deals made in smoke-filled rooms. A Prime Minister dumped, a Chancellor just out of hiding, and a Leader of the Opposition at war with his own party.

The deep divides that have plagued these parties in recent years below the surface are now exposed for all to see. A Labour Party divided between its party members and its Parliamentary party. The Conservatives between Leave and Remain.

No leadership election will resolve these great divides. Boris Johnson is not the great unifier, and whoever the Labour rebels put forward will be hated by their members from day one. Party unity is one of the many casualties of this referendum result.

Politicians will now be making calculations, as I used to do. Who should I back? What's the best way to save my seat? How can I make sure my values and beliefs are represented? What would others do if they were in my shoes?

My political hero was Roy Jenkins. What on earth would this great European and democrat have made of recent events?

He faced a similar dilemma in his time. His Labour Party was deeply divided and unelectable. Politics was facing a period of turmoil. And he was outside of Westminster, serving as EU Commissioner in Brussels.

His solution was to return to British politics and help establish a new party: the SDP. They would later merge with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats, breaking the two-party system and showing that third parties can make ground in a first past the post system.

That type of realignment might be due again.

Think about it for a moment. Where do the New Labour thinkers go if Corbyn hangs on with the backing of his party membership? Where do moderate pro-European Tories go if they elect a Brexit leader close to UKIP? And what could the future look like for the now smaller Lib Dems, who have hardly been given any air time in this current debate.

Could these forces come together and build a true alternative to the unstable, dysfunctional status quo? Possibly.

Breaking the mould of a primarily two-party system is not easy. The SDP failed on its own and had to merge to survive. And that's even with big beasts like Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, who could command the confidence of many of their colleagues.

But 35 years on from that last realignment, the mould is now cracking day by day.

Labour MPs will be facing deselection if they didn't back Corbyn and will be thinking about a fresh start.

But it needs something or someone to make the start just as Jenkins did all those years ago The arrival back into British politics of the more electable Miliband brother would have a big impact on Labour politics if he could run and win its leadership. But he can't. The Labour rank and file don't want him. His only option is to start a new movement and let Corbyn and his membership drift into a left wing protest party.

Tim Farron has done an excellent job leading the Lib Dems back from oblivion. But it's a long and lonely route ahead. It's time to make the same brave move the Liberals did back in the 80s and seek to renew in a different party formation.

Out of the disaster of Brexit and the turmoil that's taking place, I believe a new political movement can be born that speaks a different political language. A modern party that is liberal, European and internationalist, pro-free trade and against nanny state politics.

It needs to understand the appeal of mavericks like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. It must reach out to more people and listen to them. It should be radical and break rules, but keep the pragmatism and prudence of the mainstream.

But most importantly, it needs to heal our politics. The Government and the Opposition are too busy tearing themselves apart to confront the challenges we face post-Brexit. This political earthquake has shaken the foundations of our whole political system. It's time for us to build new foundations and do what markets always do eventually - adapt, rebuild, and prosper.