How a small group of former Labour and Conservative MPs dramatically changed British politics

  • The new Independent Group of MPs has shaken British politics to its core.
  • The party has had a dramatic effect on both the major parties with talk of further defections to come.
  • However, it remains dogged by charges of seeking to split the vote against the current government.
  • Here’s how the group plans to become a major new force in Westminster.

LONDON — The Independent Group (TIG) of 11 former Labour and Conservative MPs has already had a dramatic impact on British politics.

In just a few short weeks, it has snatched 11 MPs from the two major parties, surged in the opinion polls, and arguably helped force a major shift in the Labour party’s Brexit policy.

“Who knew you could have more influence on the Labour party by leaving it than staying in it?” one TIG MP said this week, reflecting on the two weeks since the group’s dramatic launch.

In the coming weeks, TIG is poised to recruit a number of additional defectors, as well as a series of big-name donors, as the group continues on its mission of becoming an official political party.

“We want to create a party… We have been really obvious about that,” a TIG MP told journalists on Friday.

The group, which wants to “change politics,” admits it is still “catching its breath” and not ready to fight a general election any time soon. It doesn’t plan to field candidates in any of the immediate local, mayoral or by-elections.

However, it is focused on becoming a fully-functioning political party as quickly as possible. Here’s how.

TIG targets new MPs

Justine Greening
Justine Greening MP.
REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The group does not yet have an official leader, and doesn’t plan to elect one until it is a party, but this week appointed former Labour MP Chuka Umunna as its chief spokesperson and main figurehead.

The other roles were assigned using a novel system of sticky post-it notes, with each MP pinning one to the sheet of paper with their preferred job written on it. Ex-Conservative MP Anna Soubry got the position of Brexit spokesperson, while her former Conservative colleague Sarah Wollaston will oversee recruitment.

Wollaston is charged with delivering one of the group’s immediate priorities — signing up more MPs.

So far there has not been a flood of extra recruits following the first wave last month. The Labour party’s decision to officially back a second referendum, as well as suspend a prominent MP accused of antisemitism, appears to have stemmed the tide of resignations from Labour for now.

The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has also played a major role in convincing swathes of Labour MPs to stick around despite their reservations with leader Jeremy Corbyn and his handling of antisemitism within the party.

However, further defections are expected soon. One former Labour shadow minister told BI on Friday that they planned to join TIG as soon as the Umunna-fronted group unveiled its first batch of policies.

There is also fear among Conservative MPs that former-education secretary Justine Greening could be on the brink of following Soubry, Wollaston, and Heidi Allen out of the Tory party and into TIG.

Greening has “softened” after being persuaded by friends in Theresa May’s Cabinet and is set to stay — for now.

“The one who I was really worried about, and I know Amber [Rudd, Work & Pensions Secretary] has reached…

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