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by Charlotte Stockton 21st February, 2019
3 min read

What impact will the launch of The Independent Group have?

On Monday morning, a group of 7 (now former) Labour MPs announced their split from the party. Instead, they will sit as a group of independent MPs under the aptly named The Independent Group. Another former Labour MP, and three former Conservative MPs, have now also joined. They are not forming a new party – yet – but what impact might they have?

Who are The Independent Group?

There are 8 former Labour MPs, and 3 former Conservative MPs, currently in the Independent Group. The original 7 were Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey; a number of these 7 have experienced votes of no confidence from their Constituency Labour Party in recent months. There had been rumours of them leaving the party for a while. They left the Labour party for a number of reasons. These included the desire for a People’s Vote; anti-Semitism; racism; and the party’s movement towards the far-left. However, Angela Smith, who said she left the Labour party as she didn’t want to be part of a racist party, hours after the Independent Group’s launch used racist language on Politics Live, quite a blow to the newly formed group.

On Tuesday evening, an 8th former Labour MP, Joan Ryan, joined the Independent Group. Ryan is the chair of the Friends of Israel group, and gave anti-Semitism as her reason for leaving.

Then, in perhaps a more exciting development, the Independent Group became truly centrist; Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen left the Conservative Party in favour of the new political movement. They wrote a shared letter to the Prime Minister, expressing their frustration over the party’s move towards the far-right, and its “disastrous handling of Brexit”.

Who else might join?

Up to 30 other Labour MPs are  considering a move to The Independent Group, according to some reports, with figures as senior as deputy leader Tom Watson being mentioned. However, as Theresa May’s majority narrows following the departure of Soubry, Allen and Wollaston, all eyes will be on the disillusioned of the Conservative Party. While only time will tell, if the movement continues to gain traction, its impact could increase.

What impact could they have?

At the launch on Monday, Chuka Umunna highlighted that while the group agreed on what was going wrong within Labour generally, they were independent of one another as well as of their former party. He admitted this meant they may vote for the Government at times, as there would be no whip. This could be great news for Theresa May as she continues to try and get her Brexit bill through Parliament, especially if more Labour MPs join them.

On the other hand, if 5 more Conservative MPs join the Independent Group, Theresa May would lose her majority in the House of Commons. This could allow another vote of no confidence in the Government to be triggered, and therefore the possibility of a general election. More likely however, Parliament would simply grind to even more of a halt than it is currently at.

The rise of the Independent Group also weakens the Labour party slightly and perhaps decreases the chance of a Corbyn government (which you can read about here), however this small split is unlikely to have much influence on policy – yet – so businesses don’t need to panic. It is certainly a situation to keep an eye on.

If you want timely insight into what’s going on in politics, GK Strategy can help you. Get in touch below.

This information is correct as of 21st February 2019 at 10am. As and when more defectors join the Independent Group, we will update this post.

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