Advertisement
Features

Labour does the splits

Seven Labour centrists and Remainers have jumped Corbyn’s far-left Brexit ship. Emily Hohler reports.

935-TIG-634
The tribe leaving behind tribal politics

"After years of whispering and plotting, the Labour Party split has begun," says the Financial Times. On Monday, seven Labour MPs announced they "had had enough of the party's leftward drift under Jeremy Corbyn and concluded Labour, as they knew it, was lost". The group Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith has yet to form a new party and will sit in parliament as The Independent Group.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Their motivations for quitting differ: the "abhorrent rise of anti-Semitism" which Corbyn has failed to tackle, an "increase in misogyny and bullying, and "an anti-Western foreign policy" which gives the likes of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro the "benefit of the doubt". Though united in their opposition to Brexit, the group has chosen "not to put Remain at the heart of its agenda".

A mix tape with dated tunes

However, the goup's statement of independence "reads like a New Labour mix tape" with its talk of a "mixed social market economy" and a "multilateral rules-based order". One suspects that if there is a centre-ground, it isn't "London's formula of economic and social liberalism", but the opposite: "tax-and-spend plus defence, law-and-order and patriotism what is generally known, and dismissed with a sneer, as populism".

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

There is a "huge gap" in the centre ground, insists Rachel Sylvester in The Times. Brexit has "scrambled" the "political Rubik's Cube" and both the Tories and Labour have been "taken over by extremists". MPs of all political colours have formed alliances to defeat the government; "cultural and generational differences" trump "old left-right divides". Chuka Umunna's promise to leave the "old tribal politics" behind will appeal to many who want something different.

Advertisement - Article continues below

It remains to be seen how many more MPs it will attract, but the original seven have already been joined by Labour MP Joan Ryan and three Tory Remainers, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston. Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, has made an "emotional" plea for Corbyn to change direction to avoid further defections, say Jessica Elgot and Rowena Mason in The Guardian. Many MPs have said their response would depend on Corbyn's reaction, including his response to deselection attempts and social-media attacks, and that a "hardline response" would prompt them to jump.

If The Independent Group's numbers do swell, particularly with non-Labour MPs, finding a coherent strategic direction could be tricky, says Stephen Bush in The Daily Telegraph. The group believes Corbyn is a "danger to the country" and that the Tories are devoid of "compassion and competence". But is it aiming at being a cleansed Labour party, or a British version of the French En Marche, an entirely new movement targeting voters of all political persuasions?

The splitters are "planning a dance of the seven veils", putting values before policies, hoping to build "momentum and interest as they evolve", says Robert Shrimsley in the FT. Building from scratch isn't easy and this "may not be the solution to our broken politics", but it is the "first step toward finding one".

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Beyond the Brexit talk, the British economy isn’t doing too badly
Economy

Beyond the Brexit talk, the British economy isn’t doing too badly

The political Brexit pantomime aside, Britain is in pretty good shape. With near-record employment, strong wage growth and modest inflation, there is …
17 Oct 2019
An economics lesson from my barber
Inflation

An economics lesson from my barber

On reopening his shop after lockdown, Dominic Frisby’s barber doubled his prices. It’s all part of the post-Covid inflation process – and we’re going …
8 Jul 2020
Boris Johnson’s grand infrastructure plan needs some small print
UK Economy

Boris Johnson’s grand infrastructure plan needs some small print

Grand infrastructure projects are all very well, but it is the small stuff that delivers the big returns, says Matthew Lynn.
5 Jul 2020

Most Popular

House price crash: UK property prices are falling – so where next?
Property

House price crash: UK property prices are falling – so where next?

With UK property prices falling for the first time in eight years, are we about to see a house price crash? John Stepek looks at what’s behind the sli…
2 Jul 2020
How “support” and “resistance” can help you spot trading opportunities
Sponsored

How “support” and “resistance” can help you spot trading opportunities

Technical analysis can help traders manage risk and decide where to enter and exit a trade. One simple form of technical analysis is the concept of “s…
6 Jul 2020
A first-half home run for investment trusts
Sponsored

A first-half home run for investment trusts

The investment trust sector has seen some extraordinary performance in the first half of this year. Max King looks at what's behind it, and asks: is i…
7 Jul 2020