Today, seven MPs leave Corbyn and the Labour party in explicit response to current leadership strategies
The MP’s are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey, who have now formed ‘The Independent Group’ party. They announced this in Central London on the 18th February, speaking together at a press conference.
Their website centralises what appears to be their new motto: “Politics is broken. Let’s fix it.”
The site even went down a few minutes after being unveiled, suggesting that the visitor traffic overwhelmed the servers.
Politics in the West is changing through an emerging pattern: The power of party ideology and loyalty appears to be decreasing. Meanwhile, the rhetoric of independence is increasingly used to connect to disillusioned, disengaged electorates in multiple countries.
The Independent Group statement of intent on this website declared:
“Our aim is to pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the party’s interests.
As an Independent Group, we aim to recognise the value of healthy debate, show tolerance towards different opinions and seek to reach across outdated divides and build consensus to tackle Britain’s problems.”
Mr Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, is thought to be the leader of the group, and he has invited other MPs to join their Independent Group.
I became a political activist to serve my community and to change the country for the better. My decision today – which has been painful and difficult – is rooted in the values and principles which I have always held.
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) February 18, 2019
Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree and leader of the announcement, said:
“This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision.”
This is the most powerful move to divide the Labour party since the formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the 26th March 1981.
Ms Berger suggests that “institutional anti-Semitism” has become one of the undercurrents in the Labour party, which her fellow Independents echoed in their own remarks. They did not want to be connected or representative of a party they described as publicly associated with anti-Semitism – which is a perception intensely discussed by the public, MPs and Jewish Rights groups.
This action is further underlined by the Labour party response to Brexit. Whilst ongoing inability of the UK government to secure a good deal for exiting the EU is a corrosive issue, these MP’s sought a fresh referendum for an informed public, and more definite action by Corbyn to stop the whirlwind Brexit that is giving lawmakers, businesses and individuals no time to prepare.
We have to ask this question: Is this an intentional, orchestrated blow to Corbyn’s PM potential? Is this a real moment of idealogical realisation, simply timed very well?
Chris Leslie, MP for Nottingham East, said:
“British politics is now well and truly broken and in all conscience, I cannot look you in the face and honestly urge you to support a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government.”
Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South, leaving after 50 years of Labour affiliation, said of the leadership:
“They have delayed and obstructed attempts to implement the agreed policy of the 2018 Labour Party conference, to secure a People’s Vote with the option to Remain in the EU.”
He further commented that: “Jeremy Corbyn, and those around him, are on the wrong side on so many international issues from Russia, to Syria, to Venezuela.”
This morning I have resigned from the Labour Party after fifty years. It has been a great privilege and honour to serve my constituents for 27 years, I intend to continue to represent them as a member of the new Independent Group of Members of Parliament #ChangePolitics pic.twitter.com/wFhJTfO33M
— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) February 18, 2019
Responding to this decision by seven MP’s to leave his party, after being explicitly named as a catalyst to this action, Jeremy Corbyn said:
“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 and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945.
“Labour won people over on a programme for the many, not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change.
“The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan. When millions are facing the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness and poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all.”
Some are describing the split as a “savage attack”, and others are hailing it as a moment of honesty. We saw similar responses when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, as he milked an ‘I’m an outsider to politics’ rhetoric to promise real change, drawing votes from the two-party system.
The recent announcement by Nigel Farage of his new ‘Brexit’ Party, claiming to have amassed 100,000 followers, was met by dubious appraisal. Farage became infamously responsible for the outcome of the Brexit referendum after he knowingly reiterated false information to the UK public to influence the vote. His new party aims to essentially bodyguard the occurrence of Brexit itself.
Will these newer parties make a meaningful change to the way that issues are debated and solved in UK politics?
Or will they create a vote diversion, enabling the dominant parties to win with a greater margin, eventually morphing into a reflection of the parties they left behind?
It is too early to understand what this implies for the future of politics in the UK.