Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown appeared before the inquisition of the host on The Andy Marr Show (tm) last Sunday to let the viewers know about More United, which describes itself as “a tech-driven political startup created to give a voice to the millions of open, tolerant people in Britain who feel the political system doesn’t speak for them anymore”. It is supported by people from across the political spectrum.
But while they talk of “using the power of the Internet to transform the way politics is funded, making it easier for moderate, progressive MPs to get elected and creating a new centre of political gravity in the UK”, More United stress that “We are not a political party and we won't stand candidates in elections. Instead we will drive change by giving financial and human resource to candidates, from all parties and none, who formally commit to support our principles”. This is not difficult to understand.
Or rather, it can be difficult to understand if you are the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, whose right-wing paymasters have clearly decided that More United has to be taken out before it can do anything like, er, drive the change that is clearly part of its modus operandi. So out has come the smearing iron.
“‘Non-Partisan’ More United Is Lib Dem Front Group” declared the Fawkes massive this morning, to the clear surprise of those allied to this group who are not Lib Dems, or indeed allied to any political party. The Great Guido goes on to ask “who is working More United behind the scenes?” Er, probably those we know about. But do go on.
“Well, top LibDem Paddy Ashdown is a director. As is Elizabeth Mayhew, Nick Clegg’s former correspondence secretary. Then there is LibDem peer Rumi Verjee. And former LibDem press officer Debbie Gore and HQ staffer Austin Rathe. As well as former LibDem candidate Maajid Nawaz and one time LibDem supporter Sunny Hundal”. And to that I call bullshit. My good friend Sunny Hundal is definitely not a Lib Dem, and indeed has been helping out recently with Political Scrapbook, which is also definitely not Lib Dem.
It gets worse: while the Fawkes rabble moan that “Celeb backers include the most frightful bores like Dan Snow and Caroline Criado-Perez”, they aren’t Lib Dems either. Nor is Jonathon Porritt, who is from the Green Party. Nor is Martha Lane Fox, who has worked for the Cameron Government and sits in the Lords as a cross-bencher. Nor is Simon Schama, who is a supporter of the Labour Party.
So when The Great Guido sniggers “What a surprise that this collection of metropolitan losers masquerading as a non-partisan political movement is just a front group for tired old LibDems”, they are not only talking out of the backs of their necks, they are just plain jealous that some of the country’s more upwardly mobile movers and shakers have joined a movement over which they have no leverage.
More United is a bold idea. It may or may not work. But what it is not is a front for the Lib Dems, or indeed any other party. So that’s the usual Fawkes level of accuracy. Another fine mess, once again.