The feminist campaigner is a convener of the UK's newest political movement
Yesterday morning, Paddy Ashdown announced the launch of a new political movement, MoreUnited.uk, on the Andrew Marr show.
Since then, over 15,000 people have signed up to show their support.
The project is fundamentally about ‘finding common purpose’, campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez — one of the group’s 17 conveners — told Left Foot Forward, emphasising that beyond that ‘I don’t think anything is set in stone.’
‘It’s something that hasn’t been done before,’ she said. ‘And I know what I’d like from it, but I don’t want to impose that because it’s about listening to as wide a range of people as possible’.
Many of us are tired of tribalism. We just want to see change happen & we will work with whoever shares our goals: https://t.co/WDYTDGoOgQ
— Caroline CriadoPerez (@CCriadoPerez) July 24, 2016
More United takes its name from the maiden speech of Jo Cox MP, in which she said of Batley and Spen that ‘while we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.’
MoreUnited.uk will act as a crowdfunding platform for progressive candidates, who sign up to its core principles. These are:
- A fair, modern, efficient market based economy that closes the gap between rich and poor and supports strong public services
- A modern democracy that empowers citizens, rather than politicians
- A green economy that protects the environment and works to reverse climate change
- An open and tolerant society where diversity is celebrated in all its forms
- A United Kingdom that welcomes immigration, international co-operation and a close relationship with the EU
Criado-Perez, who is best-known for her campaign to put women on British bank notes, was approached several weeks ago by another convener, social entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, and invited to join.
She believes that even the core principles will be open to debate and consideration, as diverse voices contribute to the evolution of the movement.
Her own support for More United derived from frustration with the current state of left-wing politics and, in particular, her belief that at the moment ‘Labour is not a place for feminists’.
Interestingly, the Women’s Equality Party has already been somewhat critical of More United. In a statement, party leader Sophie Walker said that ‘just like the politics of the past, More United has overlooked the opportunity to change the glaring inequalities that leave the women and girls of this country behind’.
Criado-Perez doesn’t seem to share this concern.
‘I’m not going to be part of anything that doesn’t have gender equality at its heart,’ she said, insisting that she would work to ensure that improving the situation of women would be a core part of the movement, and would consult WEP on the policy frameworks needed to make progress on gender equality.
Of course, the new movement is also a product of post-Brexit Britain, and in yesterday’s interview Ashdown made it clear ‘if we get the opportunity to vote to go back into the European Union, we would support it.’
I mention that, so far in the Labour leadership campaign, neither Owen Smith nor Jeremy Corbyn has given much attention to the question of Europe.
‘I find that staggering,’ Criado-Perez responds. ‘The primary crisis facing this country is Europe and that’s not being discussed.’
More United, she hopes, will provide a space to discuss an alternative, more progressive kind of Brexit — ‘something other than what Nigel Farage wants.’
This isn’t about left or right. This is about a common, internet generation purpose to make the UK a more progressive country. #moreunited
— Caroline CriadoPerez (@CCriadoPerez) July 24, 2016
So far, fundraising has been presented as the primary function of More United, and its decision to push online crowdfunding as a primary mechanism has, unsurprisingly, been attributed to the Obama campaign’s groundbreaking success in this area.
According to Ashdown, this gives progressive-minded people ‘the opportunity to change British politics away from a politics funded by big money which drags the political parties to the extremes, to being funded by lots of small money which holds it in the centre.’
However, Criado-Perez says that technology is also central to the More United pitch as a means of ensuring that More United is ‘a movement that’s really defined by its grassroots, unlike political parties that are built on very firm structures.’
One of the organisers, Austin Rathe, has written a blog post explaining in more detail the reason for More United’s focus on fundraising, saying that ‘in politics, money matters. That’s a reality that many of us (me included) don’t like, but a reality it is.’
‘Once you realise who’s paying the bills, it doesn’t take long to realise why our politics is being dragged to the extremes,’ he continued, pointing to Arron Banks’s £11m contribution to the Leave campaign.
He points to the fact that:
“Digital organisations are, one at a time, disrupting every part of our society. Companies like Uber and Amazon succeed because they understand that the internet isn’t just a way to do things faster or cheaper, it’s a way to do things that could never be done before. That same revolution will come to politics. It’s inevitable.”
Neither Rathe nor Criado-Perez are claiming at this stage that More United will drive a revolution in politics. Indeed, they’re not even sure it will work, but insist that it’s worth trying.
‘It’s natural in current climate for there to be suspicions about a political movement that is coming out against tribalism,’ Criado-Perez tweeted yesterday.
‘But why not just wait and see? Or better still, join in and help us be the change you want to see?’
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.