To understand how Britain’s upstart pro-EU party has fallen far short of its initial hopes, look no further than Jeremy Page, a 49-year-old London-based Remainer.

It was to people like him that Change UK, a party set up by disaffected centrists, directed its message, as it sought to break the mould of British politics.

Mr Page, a floating voter who lives in the well-heeled London district of Dulwich, admitted to being “very excited” when 11 Change MPs broke away from Labour and the Tories with the aim of overturning Brexit. But today Change looks like it is about to fall at the first hurdle; Mr Page, like many others, does not see it as a viable electoral force.

The newly formed group is lagging far behind in the polls for this Thursday’s elections to the European Parliament. Change UK is at only 4.3 per cent in an FT poll of polls — a fraction of the 30.6 per cent support for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, the other newcomer to British politics.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats and the Greens — more established pro-EU parties — bolster their support, hoping to muster a powerful pro-Remain vote between them.

“I think with the surge with Lib Dems recently and their established feel . . . it’s become a bit more of a viable option,” said Mr Page. “More of a useful vote.”

The poll of polls puts the Lib Dems at 14.3 per cent — compared with the 6.6 per cent it scored in the last European elections in 2014 — and the Greens at 8.3 per cent, compared with 6.9 per cent. Both parties hope to do considerably better by the time polls close on Thursday evening, bringing the combined pro-Remain vote close to or above the Brexit party total.



Vince Cable, Lib Dem leader, said his party’s strategy was based on a calculation that there is a “probably now a Remain majority” in the country.

“In these elections we’re unambiguously the Remain party,” Sir Vince told the FT. “If that’s where you are, please vote for us. If you’re not, well we’ll respect your point of view but we understand why you won’t be voting for us.”

The Lib Dems are also hoping finally to overcome the opprobrium they received from left-leaning voters for taking part in David Cameron’s 2010-2015 Conservative-led coalition — particularly over former leader Nick Clegg’s decision to reverse policy and back an increase in university tuition fees.

“The distance from the coalition years has certainly helped us,” said one Lib Dem aide. “People have forgotten about Nick Clegg and tuition fees. Everything is now about Brexit, that’s clearly been helping us.”

That core message was amplified at the party’s European election launch at an east London arts venue, complete with EU-branded popcorn and cans of craft beer. Activists, young and old cheered on the party’s new, coarse, but to the point slogan: “Bollocks to Brexit”.

Meanwhile the Greens have been boosted by non-Brexit events. The party has drifted deeper into the mainstream as climate change moves steadily higher up the agenda and Extinction Rebellion, an activist group that recently mounted high profile demonstrations in London, grab the headlines.

One recent poll even put the Greens fractionally ahead of the Conservatives, although according to the poll of polls they are about three points behind the governing party’s 11.7 per cent.

“We are now ahead of the Tories; that is delicious,” Caroline Lucas, its sole MP told a recent rally in Cambridge. “The Green party is the strongest party of Remain.”

Although the Greens once flirted with leftwing Euroscepticism, Ms Lucas is now an avowed Remainer. She argued that the UK has “one of the biggest pro-EU movements in the whole of Europe” — which she depicted as potential Green supporters.

“People suddenly realised what they’re at risk of losing,” she told the FT. “When you’ve never had it at risk before, then you don’t appreciate it.”

Both the Lib Dems and Greens gained momentum with strong performances in England’s local elections this month. In particular Sir Vince’s party put in its best performance in such a contest for two decades, as voters deserted the Tories and Labour, both of which had agonised, complex messages on Brexit.

The short, localised campaign for the European elections has also played to the Lib Dems’ and Greens’ grassroots appeal.

By contrast, Change UK has been on the back foot since its inception. Despite media attention, it has struggled with candidates with contentious pasts and has used at least three different names. Its logo, which has been compared to the Tesco supermarket, was designed by one of its MPs on a laptop the night before being revealed to the world.

In London, where the new party’s vote should be strongest, its support is just 7 per cent according to a recent survey by YouGov, a pollster. Critically for an insurgent force, it failed to strike an agreement with other Remain parties to boost the number of pro-EU MEPs.

While there were practical and legal complications to such a step, the Lib Dems and Greens suggest Change UK was focused on promoting its own brand rather than on combining forces to stop Brexit.

Ms Lucas said “we were never asked” to sign up to a pact; Sir Vince said he would have preferred to avoid “this kind of competition”.

Change UK insiders now talk only of achieving a strong percentage of the vote — rather than even a small complement of MEPs — to prove the party has not yet stalled.

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But its candidates put on a brave face. “They’re bringing people who have never been members of political parties into politics, including me,” said Gavin Esler, a former BBC presenter who is the party party’s lead candidate in London.

He depicted this week’s election as a turning point for Britain and the vote for Remain parties as potentially decisive in determining the outcome: “We could go one way, which will take us into a country that I don’t think most British people want, or we could go another way and try to rebuild ourselves.”

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