The message from the new Independent Group: we haven’t changed, Labour has. On Monday morning seven MPs resigned from the UK Labour party and will now sit as The Independent Group or ‘IG’ in the House of Commons. Plagued by anti-Semitism and paralysed by Brexit (all seven back the People’s Vote campaign for another referendum), the Labour party lost seven of its most progressive, centrist members; on the same day the Labour leadership was warned at a fiery meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party to change or face further resignations.
Is this the start of a great rearrangement in British politics, the fracture of Brexit breaking political party structures, or will this very heartfelt decision of seven lead to nothing more, the main party system so strong that the bigger party blocks remain largely unchanged?
The next week is critical.
The new group (not party for now) is using the change banner #ChangePolitics, but have said much more about what they are against rather than how they can make a difference. For now this small band will sit independent of party whip, yet their new website (which crashed for a time yesterday) is set up to attract wider support and donations (this will test the boundaries of the Electoral Commission, for as long as they are not a party there will be no requirement for disclosures).
The key question: Who do they represent and what do they want to be?
For now this group is narrow in its representation. Critically, will others from Labour or across the House join? There is speculation that a ‘second wave’ will join IG next week, comprising of Labour MPs and some Tories. 36 members would make them the third largest group in the Commons (and take the SNPs PMQs). Importantly: will the money follow? Wealthy benefactors from across centrist politics have been keen to offer support for some time. Is this the vehicle?
Is this the birth of the long talked of centrist party? The next days will be important to build momentum, and if it comes, the coming weeks will be spent making decisions over leadership and formalising a political party. This could be something big, but time is as critical as IG’s response to the big challenges facing the UK, not least with 38 days to Brexit.
Scott’s thoughts on the IG have also been published on PRWeek UK.
Scott Dodsworth is Head of Public Affairs at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
Scott is available for press inquiries and comment. Please contact him on +44 20 7413 3807 or Scott.Dodsworth@hkstrategies.com