The Independent Group - MP's who left the Labour party Feb 19, 2019 16:38:40 GMT -7
Post by pieter on Feb 19, 2019 16:38:40 GMT -7
The seven MPs who have quit to form the Independent Group. PA/Stefan Rousseau
The Independent Group is a British political grouping of Members of Parliament who resigned from the Labour Party in February 2019, citing their dissatisfaction with the Labour leadership's approach to Brexit and its dealing with allegations of antisemitism in the party.
The group was founded by Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Chuka Umunna who simultaneously announced their resignations from the Labour Party beginning on 18 February 2019. Four were Labour and Co-operative Party MPs — these exited both parties. Announcing the resignations, Berger accused Labour of having become "institutionally anti-Semitic", while Leslie said Labour had been "hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left" and Gapes said he was "furious that the Labour leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit".
They have urged people in other parties to join them. Umunna also said that there was "no merger" with the Liberal Democrats planned: the group wants to build "a new alternative".
After the group's launch, founding member Angela Smith appeared on the BBC's Politics Live programme, where she said "The recent history of the party I've just left suggests it's not just about being black or a funny tin..." in relation to a comment on the BAME community and a discussion about racism in British society. The final word was partially uttered, but was widely reported to be "tinge". She apologised shortly afterwards for having misspoken.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded: "I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election." Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that they had a "responsibility" to resign and fight by-elections as they had been elected as Labour MPs and should seek the approval of the electorate on their new platform. Others stressed reflection, with deputy leader Tom Watson imploring his party to change in order to stave off further defections. Labour MP Ian Austin warned Corbyn that there could be more defections from Labour. Scottish Labour Party leader Richard Leonard said that those in the new group were letting the Conservatives "off the hook". Former Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale urged Labour Party leaders to show "tolerance and understanding".
Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said the seven breakaway MPs should call by-elections: "If they regard themselves as democrats, I wonder if they are going to stand down and create by-elections" and "give their constituents the opportunity to see if they want them elected." UNISON leader Dave Prentis said that the split was "terrible news", stating that "split parties don't win elections". His comments were endorsed by GMB leader Tim Roache.
False, antisemitic conspiracy theories arose online that the Group are funded by Israel. Ruth George, a Labour MP, was asked to comment on Facebook activity by a Labour councillor that appeared to support this claim. She stated it was "possible" that the Israeli government was supporting the Group. After criticism, she withdrew her comments and apologised.
Ahead of the breakaway, Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that his party would "work with them in some form" but that his party would not be "subsumed" by them. Following the breakaway, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie said: "This is a damning condemnation of what Labour has become and a compelling positive case for change."
Brexit Party MEP and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said that the split was the start of realignment in British politics.
The group has been compared by commentators to the Social Democratic Party.
Joan Ryan became the first MP to join after the group’s formation, announcing her departure from the Labour Party on 19 February.
The Daily Telegraph stated that Conservative MP Anna Soubry and four others were considering defecting to the group. The BBC reported that two or three Conservative MPs were thinking of joining the group.
Structure and aims
The group is not a registered political party, but rather a group of independent MPs without a leader. The group is supported in its aims by Gemini A Ltd, a private company started by Shuker. It has been suggested[by whom?] that this will mean the group's private finances will be less transparent, not subject to the same restrictions on donations under UK law as registered political parties are. Berger said that the seven have funded the launch themselves.
The group, whose key message is: "Politics is broken. Let’s change it", has stated that it aims to pursue evidence-led policies, rather than those led by ideology, with the group being tolerant of differing opinions. Specific values include social market economy, freedom of press, environmentalism, devolution, subsidiarity, and their opposition to Brexit. All seven MPs support a second EU referendum.
Shuker has stated that "[we] back well-regulated business but in return we expect them to provide decent, secure and well-paid jobs", while Leslie has stressed the group is pro-NATO. Moreover, the group have stated they support a "diverse, mixed social market economy". The group also oppose antisemitism and racism, with Berger and Smith accusing the Labour Party of being "institutionally anti-Semitic". Umunna hopes that by the end of 2019 a new party will be formed.