So, we have a new group sitting in the the House of Commons, the Independent Group. 8 former Labour MPs and 3 former Conservatives now sit together in the House. They are all in favour of a second EU referendum and all have quit their previous parties because of dissatisfaction with the leaders, policies and seeming directions the parties are taking. But is there really a demand or even a need for as Chuka Ummuna put it, ‘a new alternative?’
Well, at the moment, they aren’t even an official party, they’re just like-minded MPs who have left their previous affiliations behind and have come together in a loose coalition of opinions and vague ideas of policies. There’s no manifesto either. So what does this group stand for? Well their given reasons for leaving their former parties were dissatisfaction with the leaderships, their stance against Brexit and for a second referendum, the alleged antisemitism within Labour and their respective parties’ shifts away from the centre to more clearly defined right and left wing thought.
Britain has had centre politics before. From the 1950s right up to Margret Thatcher’s first election victory, Britain operated on the idea of ‘consensus politics’, the idea that certain things were agreed on by all, like the NHS. And Tony Blair’s New Labour ushered in another era of centrist politics, with David Cameron beginning his ‘compassionate Conservatism’ approach, bringing everything closer to the centre, especially with the Liberal-Conservative coalition being in power for 5 years. But the EU referendum result has thrown that out the window, especially compounded by Theresa May’s ill-judged election campaign, increasing reliance on groups like the European Research Group and the DUP and her so called ‘redlines’ alienating Remainers within the party, pushing her towards a more hard-line approach to Brexit negotiations and governing in general. Jeremy Corbyn is an old-fashioned socialist and was always to bring more definitively left wing policies in anyway.
Now, Chuka Ummuna has said he hopes a new party will be formed by late 2019. But, breakaway parties don’t have a great track record in Britain. The last, the Social Democrats, ended up in alliance with and then merging with the Liberal Party, and their voice is close to negligible in the House of Commons and British politics in general. So, while I think they have done the right thing, though for most of those who have joined this group, it was a case of when, I don’t know that they will be able to gather much of a following. The Conservative party has existed in largely the same form for more than 200 years, not since Robert Peel and the Peelites left has there been a major shake-up of that party. Labour has existed for nearly 120 years, and no party has broken that monopoly.
Others have tried to change British politics before. They failed. Unless large numbers of MPs also leave their party, particularly Conservatives, I don’t see this going any other way.