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Who’s the technocrat behind the new ‘centrist party’ United for Change?

by SOLOMON HUGHES

THE multimillionaire-led attempt to launch a new “centrist party” to beat Labour is up and running, but the branding is so bland you might mistake it for a new weight-loss product or an exciting online estate agent. Or even a new video-on-demand service.

It’s called United for Change, with the slogan: “They said change was impossible. Let’s show them it’s not.” 

It is funded by Simon Franks. He set up DVDs-by-post service LoveFilm, then sold it to Amazon in 2011 for around £200 million. 

They promptly closed it down, as they just wanted the membership list and to stop competition for their own online  video service. 

Once a Labour donor — he gave around £20,000 to the party and £15,000 for Ed Balls to help run his office back in 2014 — Franks hates Labour’s turn left. 

Last year it leaked out that he is putting up £50m for a new “centrist party to fight Labour, through a company called Project One Movement Ltd. 

This month, Franks’s multimillionaire-funded-but-as-yet-member-free party has a new name and a new website, United for Change. He is out to recruit a mix of “experts” — businessmen and Labour MPs willing to abandon their “tribalism” and “historical baggage.”  

It’s a technocratic appeal for “creating policies on the back of evidence and research that deliver long-term, workable solutions to the issues we face,” though it is going to be linked with a “populist” stand of a “tough” policy to address “the collapse in public confidence in our immigration system.”

Franks is hosting his new party from his company headquarters in London. Appropriately this HQ is in Orwell House, as centrists love to think Orwell is their patron saint, which has always seemed a bit unfair on Orwell, who at various times backed armed revolution and never enthused about technocratic managerialism.

Since giving up LoveFilm, one of Franks’s biggest businesses, which sits in Orwell House alongside the new party, is Redbus Media, an “outdoor advertising” firm. 

Redbus specialises in helping corporations sell to “youth,” meaning 16 to 19-year-olds and students of 18 to 24. It does this by having poster spaces and digital displays around both colleges for the youth and university campuses.

Redbus has other niche specialities, like targeting shoppers with adverts pinned to the handles and sides of shopping trollies. Its recent clients include Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Nestle.

So the “new” party challenging Labour and promising to write a “new social contract for 21st century Britain” is housed and funded by a man who sells sugary drinks and fatty food to “youth” and puts ads for choccy bars on shopping trollies.

 

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