The Independent Group
|Founded||18 February 2019|
|Split from||Labour Party|
1 Ashley Road
|House of Commons|
11 / 650
|House of Lords|
0 / 781
|Local government (support)|
7 / 20,712
The Independent Group (TIG) is a British pro-EU parliamentary group and political association of Members of Parliament (MPs) founded in February 2019. Its seven founding members resigned from the Labour Party, citing their dissatisfaction with the Labour leadership's approach to Brexit and its handling of allegations of antisemitism in the party. They have since been joined by another MP who resigned from Labour, citing similar reasons, and three MPs who resigned from the Conservative Party, citing their opposition to the party's Brexit policies, a lack of concern within the party for the "most vulnerable in society", and what they see as a right-wing takeover of the Conservatives. All members of the group support a second EU referendum, and the group is considered to be centrist.
The group is not a registered political party, but has indicated it intends to constitute one. It has no single leader though Chuka Umunna is the Group's spokesperson. The Independent Group does not formally have a membership beyond the MPs themselves nor representation in other levels of government of the UK. However, it is supported by several local councillors who have left the Labour Party in support of the group.
- 1 History
- 2 Reactions
- 3 Structure and aims
- 4 Policies
- 5 Funding
- 6 Members of Parliament
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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 on 18 February 2019. These founding members have been referred to as the "Gang of Seven" by some British commentators, in reference to the Gang of Four who split from the Labour Party to found the Social Democratic Party in 1981. Four of the number – Berger, Gapes, Shuker and Leslie – were Labour and Co-operative Party MPs: they exited both parties. Announcing the resignations, Berger described Labour as having become "institutionally antisemitic", 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".
Shuker, Smith and Leslie, as well as Joan Ryan who would join the following day, had recently lost votes of no-confidence brought by their constituency parties, while two motions of no-confidence against Berger had been withdrawn.
On the day of the group's launch, founding member Angela Smith appeared on the BBC's Politics Live programme, where she said, in a discussion about racism, that: "The recent history of the party I've just left suggested it's not just about being black or a funny tin... you know, a different... from the BAME community". The offending phrase was partially uttered, but was widely reported to be "funny tinge". Smith apologised shortly afterwards, saying, "I'm very upset that I misspoke so badly." Commentators noted an irony given that the group had been formed in response to perceived racism.
On 19 February Joan Ryan announced her departure from the Labour Party, becoming the first MP to join after the group's formation. On 20 February 2019, three Conservative MPs left their party to join the group: Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen, and Anna Soubry, citing the handling of Brexit by the Prime Minister (including "red lines" which alienated most Remainers); the party's reliance on the European Research Group (a group supporting a no-deal Brexit) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in passing Brexit-related legislation; what they saw as the takeover of the Conservative Party by "right wing, ... hard-line anti-EU" MPs; and lack of concern from the Conservative Party for the "most vulnerable in society", as reasons for their departure.
In February 2019, Labour councillors in over ten councils also left the party and intend to align with The Independent Group. Two former Labour councillors in Brighton and Hove Council left the party to form their own independent group on 25 February, aligning with the Parliamentary group. There have been further resignations from the party by Labour councillors in Barnet, Bexley, Derby, Salford, Sheffield and Stafford. With the Independent Group not a registered political party, it is unclear how many councillors support them, but many give the same reasons as the Labour MPs who left the party: alleged antisemitism in Labour, Corbyn's leadership and Brexit.
On 19 February 2019, 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 the Independent Group MPs 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 for their new platform. Scottish Labour Party leader Richard Leonard said that those in the new group were letting the Conservatives "off the hook" for their "failed solutions" to problems he identified as affecting the UK and the world. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was "deeply distressed" by the split because "What people I care about need", he said, "is a Labour government. One thing that’s going to make that more difficult is Labour splits". Emily Thornberry said the members of the Independent Group wanted the Labour "movement to be distracted and divided". Others stressed reflection, with deputy leader Tom Watson imploring his party to change in order to stave off further defections. Former Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale urged Labour Party leaders to show "tolerance and understanding".
On 19 February, Labour MP Ruth George, who had been asked to respond to a Facebook comment suggesting the group's financial backers were "Israelis", replied that "Support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour ‘Friends of Israel’ of which Luciana was chair is possible and I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group’s financial backers are not being revealed". After Jewish groups said that she was indulging an antisemitic conspiracy theory, she apologised and withdrew her comment.
On 20 February after three former Conservative MPs joined the Group, Labour Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said it was a "new low" for MPs who were once Labour to join together with Conservative MPs, who had been responsible for government cuts.
On 25 February, the Labour Party announced that it would back moves for a second EU referendum in the coming weeks. Corbyn said that it was in order to prevent "a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country". The move was interpreted as being, in part, in reaction to the threat of further defections to The Independent Group.
On 19 March, MPs passed a motion put forward by Labour to remove Gapes, as well as non-TIG independent Ian Austin, from the seats on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee they held as part of the Labour Party's allocation. They were replaced by Labour MPs Conor McGinn and Catherine West. Gapes called the move "a sad day for the independence of Select Committees", while Labour said that it was right that the party filled its allocation of seats on the committees. It was reported that Chris Leslie would face a similar vote on his International Trade Select Committee seat, but that there were no plans to remove Berger from her seat on the Health Select Committee.
Affiliated trade unions and other groups
On 19 February 2019, Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Labour-affiliated Unite the Union, said the seven breakaway MPs should call by-elections. He criticised their position as hypocritical as they had been elected on a manifesto to deliver Brexit. 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.
Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, said he had "personal sympathy" for Berger because of the "hate and abuse" she had suffered. The six other former Labour MPs were, in his opinion, malcontents opposed to Corbyn's leadership.
On 20 February 2019, Prime Minister and Conservative leader Theresa May stated that she was "saddened" by the departure of Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen, but added that her party would "always offer... decent, moderate and patriotic politics." Former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in a statement on Twitter that he respected but disagreed with the three MPs' decision, as the party needs "strong voices at every level of the party calling for the modern, compassionate Conservatism that saw the Conservative Party return to office." He had earlier sent identical messages to the Tory defectors asking them whether it was "too late to persuade [them] to stay." Pro-Brexit MP Michael Fabricant tweeted that he was "Sad to see them go but the Government must deliver the result of #EU #Referendum," while former education secretary Nicky Morgan wrote that she was "very sorry" to see her "principled and fearless friend" Anna Soubry resign.
On 18 February 2019, before the breakaway, Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable 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." On 19 February Cable later added that he has "offered a hand of friendship to the new Independent Group" and sees "the way forward as a collaborative arrangement, a confederation of groups who have a lot in common". On 20 February Cable also suggested that the Liberal Democrats will not put up candidates against members of the Independent Group at future elections. On 21 February former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said in a radio interview that it was "entirely possible" that the two groups could merge to form a new centrist political party.
On 23 February Cable contacted members of The Independent Group to seek support for his proposed parliamentary motion for a second Brexit referendum. The Liberal Democrats signalled support for the amendment, along with the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.
Structure and aims
The group is not a registered political party with a leader, but rather a group of independent MPs with a convenor (Gavin Shuker), and spokesperson (Chuka Umunna). On 19 February Umunna stated his hope for the group to form a new party by the end of 2019 and it was reported that they are making plans to field parliamentary candidates in case of a snap general election. On 5 March, Umunna announced that the group was in talks with the Electoral Commission about becoming a party. In a 7 March interview, Umunna said that the Group intend to launch themselves as a full party by autumn 2019 and to contest every seat at the next general election.
The group, whose slogan 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 stated values include social market economy, freedom of press, environmentalism, devolution, subsidiarity, and their opposition to Brexit. All eleven MPs support a second referendum on the EU. Through the group has not published a manifesto, its members follow a set of eleven "values", the most important of which is the belief that the government must do "whatever it takes" to protect national security, as Britain is "a great country of which people are rightly proud." Shuker has stated that "[we] back well-regulated business but in return we expect them to provide decent, secure and well-paid jobs" and Leslie has stressed that the group is pro-NATO. Moreover, the group has stated it supports a "diverse, mixed social market economy".
The Independent Group was established without a formal policy platform.
Umunna published a personal, unofficial series of policies that he believes reflect the values and principles of TIG in order to prompt discussion. These include: prioritising public benefit in utilities, to counter privatisation; tackling excessive pay in the board room; means-testing tuition fees and reintroducing maintenance grants; funding universal childcare by equalising rates of tax on income and dividends; a new tax to fund the NHS in response to an ageing population; a 'Citizen's Service' for school leavers; and state funding for political parties to counter corruption by rich individuals.
On 14 March 2019, Wollaston's amendment calling for a second EU referendum was called by the speaker, the first TIG amendment to be called. This was the first time that parliament had the opportunity to directly vote on a second referendum. However, after both the People's Vote and Best for Britain campaigns advised supporters not to vote for the amendment and the Labour Party whipped its MPs to abstain, the amendment fell 85-334.
The new party would not be entitled to parliamentary financial assistance for opposition parties (Short Money) as it is not available to political parties established in the middle of a parliamentary term. The group is supported in its aims by Gemini A Ltd, a non-trading company started by Shuker and registered in England and Wales. Berger stated that the seven founders funded the launch themselves. On 23 February 2019 David Garrard, previously a major donor to the Labour Party, told The Observer that he had given financial support to the group.
Chuka Umunna has stated that he expects The Independent Group to be held to the same standards as political parties in terms of funding and transparency while not being a formal party. The Group has said it will disclose donations in line with law that governs donations for political parties, i.e. only accepting money from UK donors and naming individuals who give more than £7,500. Shortly after its formation, the group held a meeting with the Electoral Commission to discuss reporting of political donations to the group and its individual MPs.
Members of Parliament
|Name||Constituency||Former party||First elected||Joined||Portfolios|
|Chuka Umunna||Streatham||Labour||6 May 2010||18 February 2019||Spokesperson of the Independent Group|
|Gavin Shuker||Luton South||Labour Co-op||6 May 2010||18 February 2019||Convener of the Independent Group|
|Heidi Allen||South Cambridgeshire||Conservative||7 May 2015||20 February 2019||Spokesperson for Welfare and Pensions, Social Care, and Business|
|Luciana Berger||Liverpool Wavertree||Labour Co-op||6 May 2010||18 February 2019||Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Health, Digital and Culture|
|Ann Coffey||Stockport||Labour||9 April 1992||18 February 2019||Spokesperson for Children and Education|
|Mike Gapes||Ilford South||Labour Co-op||9 April 1992||18 February 2019||Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence|
|Chris Leslie||Nottingham East||Labour Co-op||1 May 1997||18 February 2019||Spokesperson for Economics and Trade|
|Joan Ryan||Enfield North||Labour||1 May 1997||19 February 2019||Manager of Group Business
Spokesperson for International Development
|Angela Smith||Penistone and Stocksbridge||Labour||5 May 2005||18 February 2019||Spokesperson for Transport, Local Government and Housing, Energy and Environment|
|Anna Soubry||Broxtowe||Conservative||6 May 2010||20 February 2019||Spokesperson for Brexit and Justice|
|Sarah Wollaston||Totnes||Conservative||6 May 2010||20 February 2019||Responsible for new colleagues|
|Key: Founding member|
- Opinion polling about The Independent Group
- List of British politicians who have crossed the floor
- Opposition to Brexit in the United Kingdom
Examples of previous party splits:
- Helm, Toby (18 February 2019). "Rebel Labour MPs set to quit party and form centre group". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 February 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
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- Nandy, Lisa; Foster, Dawn; Moore, Suzanne; Harker, Joseph; Sodha, Sonia; Balls, Katy (18 February 2019). "Are the gang of seven right to split from Labour? Our panel responds". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Hadfield, Miles (18 February 2019). "Four Co-op Party MPs quit the Labour Party as part of breakaway group". Co-operative News. Co-operative Press. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- "Seven MPs leave Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership". BBC News. 18 February 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Serhan, Yasmeen (20 February 2019). "About a Dozen Lawmakers Just Made Brexit More Complicated". The Atlantic. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Taylor, Rebecca (20 February 2019). "Who are the Tory and Labour MPs now sitting as independents?". Sky News. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "LFI chair Joan Ryan loses local no confidence vote by 94 votes to 92". Jewish News. 6 September 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
- Long, Matilda (20 February 2019). Three Conservative MPs quit over May's 'disastrous handling of Brexit' Yahoo! News UK. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- Channel 4 News, Channel 4, 18 February 2019[need quotation to verify][full citation needed]
- Perraudin, Frances; Rawlinson, Kevin (18 February 2019). "Labour split: seven MPs resign from the party – Politics live". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2019.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- Simons, Ned (18 February 2019). "Labour Split MP Appears To Describe BAME People As Having A 'Funny Tinge'". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Evans, Albert (18 February 2019). "Independent Group MP Angela Smith apologises after seeming to describe BAME people as 'funny tinged'". i. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Irving, Angelo (19 February 2019). "Angela Smith's "funny tinge" comment showed she was right about institutional racism". Media Diversified. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Smith, Adam (19 February 2019). "New 'funny tinge' jokes continue to ridicule Angela Smith's racism gaffe". Metro. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- "Eighth MP quits Labour for Independent Group". BBC News. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Ryan, Joan [@joanryanenfield] (19 February 2019). "After 4 decades, I have made the terribly difficult decision to resign from the Labour Party. It is the greatest honour of my life to represent the people of #EnfieldNorth. I will continue to represent and speak up for them as a member of the @TheIndGroup of MPs #ChangePolitics" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Kirby, Will (19 February 2019). "Joan Ryan: Labour MP resigns from party to join Independent Group, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of 'playing games with Brexit'". The Independent. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- "Three Tory MPs join Labour breakaway group". BBC News. 20 February 2019. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "Three Conservative MPs to defect to Independent Group". The Guardian. 20 February 2019. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Pogrund, Gabriel; Shah, Oliver; Wheeler, Caroline (24 February 2019). "Councillors quit Labour 'intimidation' and prepare to join TIG". The Times. Retrieved 24 February 2019.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- Bastable, Bex (25 February 2019). "The Independent Group gains two councillors in Brighton and Hove". Brighton & Hove Independent. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- Wilson, Steve (28 February 2019). "after much soul searching I have today resigned my membership of @uklabour. After more than 20 years of membership, 10 as a cllr, I believe it no longer represents views I hold so dear. In all honesty I can no longer represent the party it has become. @jeremycorbyn has broken it".
- Chakelian, Anoosh (27 February 2019). "'You're fake socialists!' The Independent Group goes local as councillors defect". New Statesman. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- Watts, Joe; Buchan, Lizzie (18 February 2019). "Labour MPs quit party in disgust at antisemitism, Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and Brexit stance". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 February 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Gordon, Tom (18 February 2019). "Cracks appear in Scottish Labour as MPs quit". The Herald. Glasgow. Archived from the original on 18 February 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Perraudin, Frances; O'Carroll, Lisa; Carrell, Severin (18 February 2019). "Tom Watson says Labour must change to avoid more MPs leaving – Politics live". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Sugarman, Daniel (19 February 2019). "MPs may be 'financially backed' by Israel". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Heffer, Greg (19 February 2019). "Ruth George MP sorry for 'conspiracy theory' that Labour quitters are backed by Israel". Sky News. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Mason, Rowena (19 February 2019). "Labour MP apologises for suggesting Israel funds Independent Group". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Madeley, Pete (22 February 2019). "EXCLUSIVE: Ian Austin MP latest to quit 'broken' Labour Party". Express & Star. Wolverhampton. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- Siddique, Haroon (22 February 2019). "Labour must move faster on antisemitism, says McDonnell, as Austin quits – politics live". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
- Yorke, Harry; Mikhailova, Anna; Swinford, Steven; Hope, Christopher; Foster, Peter (25 February 2019). "Brexit latest news: Jeremy Corbyn backs second referendum to prevent 'a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on country'". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
- Elgot, Jessica (25 February 2019). "Labour to back moves for second Brexit referendum". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- "Blair praises 'courageous' Independent Group MPs". BBC News. 3 March 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
- "Ex-Labour MPs 'booted' off Foreign Affairs Committee". BBC News Online. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
- Simons, Ned (20 February 2019). "The Independent Group Defections: David Cameron Warns Tories To Stay 'Modern' And 'Compassionate'". HuffPost UK. Archived from the original on 21 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Chaplain, Chloe (21 February 2019). "Independent Group: David Cameron 'texted rebel Tory MPs before split to try persuade them to stay'". i. Archived from the original on 21 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Brand, Paul (20 February 2019). "Theresa May 'saddened' as three Conservative MPs depart party to join newly-formed Independent Group". ITV News. Archived from the original on 20 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Cowburn, Ashley (3 February 2019). "Vince Cable vows to 'work with' rebel MPs as he claims 'real chance' of Labour breakaway". The Independent. Archived from the original on 4 February 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Cable, Vince (19 February 2019). "Cynics may decry the Independent Group, but here's why party splits are a blessing for British politics". The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "MPs debate anti-Semitism". BBC News. 20 February 2019. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- King, Samantha (21 February 2019). "Tim Farron: Forming centrist party with Independent Group 'entirely possible'". Talkradio. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Watts, Joe (23 February 2019). "Second Brexit referendum motion to be tabled in parliament next week". The Independent. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- Cowburn, Ashley (27 February 2019). "Independent Group table second referendum amendment to 'break Brexit gridlock'". The Independent. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
- "Independent Group: Ex-Labour and Tory MPs elect Gavin Shuker as 'convener'". BBC News. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- "Umunna made Independent Group spokesman". BBC News. 1 March 2019. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
- Elgot, Jessica (19 February 2019). "Chuka Umunna hopes new party will be created by end of year". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 February 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Helm, Toby; Radstone-Stubbs, Lewis (2 March 2019). "Independent rebel MPs prepare way to take on main parties at election". The Observer. Retrieved 2 March 2019.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- "Independents 'in talks about forming party'". 2019-03-05. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
- "Statement of Independence". The Independent Group. 18 February 2019. Archived from the original on 18 February 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Maguire, Patrick (18 February 2019). "Q&A: Who are the Independent Group and what do they stand for?". The New Statesman. Archived from the original on 18 February 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- "The Independent Group: Who are they and what do they stand for?". BBC News. 21 February 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
- Bush, Stephen (18 February 2019). "Seven Labour MPs break from party to form Independent Group". The New Statesman. Archived from the original on 18 February 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Umunna, Chuka (8 March 2019). "What are progressives for?". Progressive Centre UK. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
- Sabbagh, Dan (2019-03-14). "MPs to vote on second Brexit referendum for first time". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
- Read, Jonathon (14 March 2019). "MPs could vote on second referendum after the speaker selects amendment". The New European. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
- "MPs reject a second Brexit referendum by 334 votes to 85". BBC News. 14 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- Gordon, Tom (19 February 2019). "Funding blow for breakaway MP group". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "Gemini A Ltd – Overview". Companies House. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- Singleton, David (18 February 2019). "Labour's gang of seven: what we know about their moves so far". Total Politics. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- Guyoncourt, Sally (21 February 2019). "Who funds The Independent Group? Breakaway MPs pledge to reveal major donors as it receives small donations from thousands". i. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- Savage, Michael (23 February 2019). "Corbyn told: change course before it's too late for Labour". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
- Pegg, David; Waterson, Jim (19 February 2019). "Independent Group criticised for not registering as political party". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- Electoral Commission (United Kingdom) (21 February 2019). "We've had our first meeting with The Independent Group.pic.twitter.com/CSKTy6Uh9n". Retrieved 24 February 2019.
- Sabbagh, Dan (28 February 2019). "Chuka Umunna named spokesman for the Independent Group". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2019.