Britain's two parties had struggled since the financial crisis
“Since the Global Financial Crisis hit Britain in 2008, the number of new political parties has exploded. Between 2009 and 2010, The Home Office reports that 416 new political parties were registered. This doubled in the period of mobilisation that occurred between 2011 and 2012, with 694 new parties created. Some of the parties, such as The People's Party emerged from the ‘street’ , the assemblies and occupations. Others, such as the Pirate Party emerged from the movement against Internet censorship. There are amalgamations of existing parties, such as the Alliance for Unity in Scotland. As well as many localist parties. At one level, these developments should be welcomed by those who see a range of parties as essential to representative democracy. On the other hand, there are puzzles to be explained as well.”
- Reinventing the political party in Transition Britain, Lukas Audickas, House of Commons Library (2015)
The hot new trend in British politics was new political parties, from Unity to the Centrists everyone and their nan seemed to be setting up a new political organisation. In the camps of the OutRage movement, a single question had been raging for a long time, what to do about the ballots. There were three schools of thought within the movement: the anarchist tendency, made up of folks like Russell Brand, supported keeping out of electoral politics, focusing on being a purely ground movement and urging their supporters to spoil their ballots. Tendency number two were the people who wanted a closer relationship with the Alternative and the Communist Party, such as Leeds based solicitor Richard Burgon. The final tendency were the populists who wanted to create a political movement of their own.
For a long time it seemed the OutRage protests would be absorbed into the Alternative, OutRage activists had helped in writing the Alternative’s 2012 manifesto, and they enjoyed a close relationship with Coordinator Michael Meacher. But tensions had increasingly grown between the Alternative and the young protesters. Leading figures in the Alternative, especially those in the Communist Party were becoming resentful that OutRage figures had such power in Alternative without going through “the proper channels”. Despite Meacher’s protests, the Alternative’s Executive Committee voted to present the OutRage movement an ultimatum. Either formally affiliate to the Alternative, or lose their influence.
Meacher had been desperate to absorb OutRage into the Alternative
The OutRage Movement had tried to ride two horses for too long, enjoying a cosy relationship with the Alternative whilst fighting an extra-parliamentary battle. Now the group had to make a decision. At a series of people’s assemblies up and down the country, the various local OutRage groups debated the merits of affiliation. After several months of back and forth a decision was made. OutRage would not be absorbed into the Alternative, citing the authoritarian and top-down nature of the Alternative's structure, as well as it’s previous support for the Alan Johnson Government and the austerity it had inflicted. Instead the movement would found it’s own political party to contest the 2014 European Elections.
“A group of intellectuals, together with OutRage activists have launched the manifesto Real Change. In the manifesto they emphasise the need for an alternative to the current one situation of economic and political crisis in Britain. They call for 'the recovery of popular sovereignty' in view of the next elections to the European Parliament, which will be held in May. Among the signatories are Steve Keen, professor of Politics at Kingston University, actor Sean Bean and professor Avi Shlaim from Oxford. "We are facing the greatest loss of credibility of the regime born with the Cardiff Accords," they say in the text. Faced with this situation, they highlight that "a popular will not to sacrifice more rights on the altar of markets. It is essential to forge keys to open the doors that today want to close us."”
- Intellectuals and OutRagers call to "regain popular sovereignty" in new manifesto, Helen Lewis, The New Statesman (2014)
Feeding in from the various citizens assemblies the National Coordinating Group for OutRage would publish a manifesto, named “Real Change”. In the manifesto the OutRage activists called for more direct democracy through the use of referenda and citizens assemblies. They also called for Britain to pull out of the Troika bailout with an end to austerity and public sector cuts. Above all the manifesto called for a “Britain from below, not from above - where the people get the final say”. The new movement promised to break the mould of traditional British politics. Within minutes of the manifesto’s launch online over 70,000 people had signed up for the new initiative, named “The People’s Party”. The website crashed soon after.
The OutRage movement would need to move from the streets to the ballot box
The leader of this new movement would also be unlikely, named as Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Ribeiro-Addy had been head of the National Union of Students during the 2009 coup attempt, and thus had been one of the major leaders of anti-coup action in the streets. Since then Ribeiro-Addy had gone on to lead various youth anti-racism and anti-austerity movements, becoming a popular TV pundit representing Britain's left. This all culminated in her being elected to the National Coordinating Group for the OutRage Movement. At just 28 Rebeiro-Addy was by far the youngest leader of a British political party, and the only black woman to lead a major political organisation.
At an event in Islington the People’s Party was officially launched. Ribeiro-Addy was joined by a star-studded cast from Britain's populist left. This included people like Mark Thomas, a popular left-wing comedian, fellow TV pundit Owen Jones, army whistle-blower Clive Lewis, University of Oxford Professor Caroline Lucas, and singer-songwriter Charlotte Church. The party would also get its first parliamentary representation when Alternative MP Brian Eno defected to the People’s Party. Eno condemned the top-down organisation of the Alternative, calling on other Alternative MPs to come to “the right side of the barricades”. Thousands would pour in to watch the new party form.
Despite the public falling out with the Alternative, Ribeiro-Addy called on other anti-austerity parties to join the People’s Party in forming a united front for the European Elections. Ribeiro-Addy pledged to have a “hand outstretched to all”. The People’s Party leadership also called on other protest groups and civil society elements to join in the new party. The People’s Party especially hoped to coax some of the larger unions away from the SDP and Alternative. Not everyone was happy with this change OutRage coordinator for West Yorkshire Richard Burgon condemned the formation of a rival party, confirming he would stay with the Alternative, accusing Ribeiro-Addy of splitting the left. The new force of left wing politics had arrived, and in true socialist fashion, it launched with a split.
“Bell Ribeiro-Addy has been named as the General Secretary of the People's Party. The television analyst has called for a joint list with the Socialist Alternative and RISE Party. That step has certain conditions, according to Ribeiro-Addy: "That it has broad popular support and that it be a call for unity." Members of the movement intend to appeal to the SA for a coalition before or after the May election. SA sources have said this new party will not influence their political agenda, which is now focused on the election for the European Parliament. "If you ask me if I want to convince the Alternative to join with us, I tell you: obviously. Sooner or later, we have to meet, always from the premise of citizen participation," Ribeiro-Addy said.”
- Bell Ribeiro-Addy named as People’s Party Leader, Associated Press (2014)
Ribeiro-Addy now had to follow up on her lofty ambitions for the People's Party