Flop of the Month: Change UK stutters ahead of Euro elections

The anti-Brexit party formed by 11 ex-Labour and Tory MPs offered hope to disaffected moderate voters, but its poorly targeted European elections launch and damaging race rows pose serious questions about Change UK's prospects.

Are they called Change UK or The Independent Group? (image via @TheIndGroup on Twitter)
Are they called Change UK or The Independent Group? (image via @TheIndGroup on Twitter)

One problem is the name.

Change UK, which is fielding 70 candidates on 23 May, ditched its original moniker The Independent Group, although the two titles are used seemingly intermittently – its Twitter handle is @TheIndGroup.

The logo reads: "Change UK The Independent Group". Many colloquially refer to supporters as "Tiggers".

As well as confusion, the name brings a lack of clarity about its aims – particularly in contrast to the other high-profile new player: Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

These things matter at the ballot box, particularly for new parties lacking widespread recognition. The Times reported that The&Partnership has been brought in to help clarify its message and branding.

'The website looks like a GCSE project': PR pros' take on launch of The Independent Group

Change UK boasts some interesting names among its election candidates, including former Newsnight journalist Gavin Esler and columnist Rachel Johnson (sister of Boris). However, a lack of ‘real’ people in the list – doctors, teachers, etc – means it risks being cast as another party of the establishment.

Meanwhile, April saw allegedly racist or Islamophobic comments from three separate Change UK European election candidates come to light.

Ali Sadjady resigned after The Independent reported his derogatory tweet about Romanians in 2017. Joseph Russo also resigned for historic comments in which he said "black women scare me", while another candidate, Nora Mulready, was accused of conflating Islam with terrorism.

These came two months after Change UK MP Angela Smith used the term "funny tinge" to refer to non-white people in a TV interview. The incidents cast a shadow on a party eager to distance itself from intolerant attitudes present in some Conservative and Labour circles.

When many are crying out for a focused, fresh-looking centrist party – much like French President Macron’s En Marche – Change UK is in urgent need of, umm, change.

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