Democracy campaigner Gina Miller is launching a drive to make the next general election a watershed moment for pushing through reform of the UK’s “broken” political system.
Ms Miller’s True and Fair Party aims to recruit up to 30 candidates to fight incumbent Conservative MPs who have failed to “live up to basic standards of integrity or competence”.
She believes that the wave of public distrust in politicians could deliver the party enough MPs to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament and drive through fundamental reforms.
In return for propping up a minority Labour government on a “confidence and supply” basis, TFP MPs would demand changes to the political system, including proportional representation and legislation to put ministerial standards on a legal footing.
Ms Miller told The Independent that she has identified about 30 seats in three “blue corridors”, where a loss of trust in Tory MPs and a “politically homeless” electorate create fertile ground for her party.
The party is not naming its target list at this point, but an insider said they were looking at seats “from Devizes to Daventry” – the seats of Boris Johnson loyalist Danny Kruger and chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris – though not at the prime minister’s Uxbridge, which he is thought unlikely to contest in the election expected in 2024.
Ms Miller acknowledged that hers is the latest of a line of new parties attempting to break the mould of British politics, after the failure of Change UK and Renew, among others.
But she insisted that the events of the Covid pandemic, Partygate and the cost of living crisis have created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change.
“The existing crop of politicians have created a situation where people are now so angry, and so upset about the behaviour in parliament, they want to see something different,” she said.
“I’m not sure that opportunity will come again. I do think there’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity at the moment, in this malaise, to stand as a new party on an issue that people feel very passionately about.”
The businesswoman is best known for two successful court challenges against government efforts to force Brexit through without parliamentary approval and to prorogue the Commons to prevent scrutiny of its deal. But she said the TFP was not campaigning to reverse Brexit, describing it as “a battle of the past”.
Instead, the party’s pitch will be focused on electoral reform, cleaning up the machinery of government and corruption.
Key policies will include putting the ministerial code, Nolan Principles on standards in public life and prerogative powers on a statutory footing, as well as an oath of office applicable to all MPs and public servants.
“I’ve gone around the country on 23 tours now, and I keep thinking we literally are living in a broken Britain,” she said.
“All that’s gone on within the Conservative Party has actually dented trust in everyone. All politicians are being seen on the doorstep as being untrustworthy. People are saying, ‘What have they done for us? It’s time for something completely new.’
“Our pitch is about saying we need to look at the machinery of government, put in checks and balances, make sure that whoever is in power actually has to obey rules and regulations and there is some redress when things go wrong, to clean up this chumocracy and corruption.”
Polling for the TFP, seen by The Independent, suggests that 60 per cent of Labour voters and 50 per cent of Liberal Democrats – as well as 11 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2019 – think that opposition parties should step aside in seats where they stand no chance to help the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservatives. The strategy is particularly popular among younger voters, with 37 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds backing it, against 15 per cent opposed.
Ms Miller said she has had no formal talks with other parties about co-operation, but has shared polling with them and expects Labour and the Lib Dems – as happened in the Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-elections – to target campaign resources at seats they have most chance of winning.
She expects to be on her party’s slate of candidates for the election herself, and says some big names – who she would not identify – have been in touch about standing.
“I told them ‘Find a seat’,” she said, adding that, like other candidates, they would be expected to have personal ties to the seat they want to fight, either by living, working or growing up in the area, or having supported local communities in their working lives.
Ms Miller acknowledged that for her plan to work, the TFP will have to target Tory strongholds where neither Labour nor Lib Dems think it worth devoting resources.
But she said: “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a safe seat any more.
“TFP is a start-up, essentially a network of independents who adhere to core values and policies that expose and overturn corruption and failure.
“We’re not going to fight every seat, but we can make a real difference in 20-30 constituencies that have, for too long, been let down by their MPs and a lack of unified opposition to challenge them. Our applicants will offer voters a natural choice of candidates to rally around, presenting real challengers in seats where Labour and the Lib Dems have little realistic prospect of winning.”