Tag Archives: tig

Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry write: The Independent Group and the Lib Dems working together is grown up politics

Today one of The Independent Group of MPs (TIG), Anna Soubry, will be speaking at a fringe event organised by IPPR North at the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference.  Inevitably, the Westminster village will ask why and speculate as to what this means.  But outside of Westminster, the idea that people who share similar values and have common views on things should work together is not news, its common sense.

There is no doubt that our politics is broken and needs fundamental change. We have a Government and an Official Opposition who are deeply divided, have failed to provide coherent leadership and to discharge their duties with the competence the British public are entitled to expect.  All public opinion research shows millions of politically homeless people are crying out for an alternative and something new – we left the main parties to create one.

A key facet of the culture of TIG is that we are non tribal – we share the same progressive values but we hail from different political traditions.  The fact people come from different political backgrounds should not preclude anyone working with others where there is agreement.  It is this belief that paved the way for the formation of our group and it is precisely why we had all worked with Liberal Democrat MPs long before our group formed on a number of issues, especially on Brexit, and will continue to do so. This is made easier by the fact that, unlike the main parties, the Lib Dems have not been taken over by parties within parties promoting the extremes of left or right.

In this sense, it should come as no surprise that at this time – when Brexit is the dominant issue facing our nation – our Brexit spokesperson should be speaking on a platform with Jo Swinson, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. We were delighted to have the full support of all Lib Dem MPs for Sarah Wollaston’s cross party Peoples Vote amendment which was voted on in the House of Commons last night.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 37 Comments

Our party’s not for merging

It has been possible to welcome The Independent Group’s eruption onto the British political stage without thinking of throwing in the towel and leaving the ring to them.

They seem to have helped stir up both the Government and the Shadow ministers to move   from the entrenched positions which had been vainly criticised by so many.  If so they have done some service to the country, even though their voting power in the Commons is as limited as is our own party’s.

Nonetheless, seeing the immediate popularity of this novel group while our own national poll ratings fell below 10% was hard to take. Even though the new group is tiny and not yet a party, some Liberal Democrats then decided that this is not like the other mini centrist parties we have seen briefly rise and as quickly disappear, but a genuine rival to us. The game is up at last, some seem to have sadly concluded, perhaps worn down by the continuing failure of the voters to appreciate us.

 Many other Liberal Democrats look with astonishment at that idea. We are a party of substance, with history and credibility, with 100,000 or so members and maybe 2000 councillors, a party with a credo and policies to match our beliefs, with structures and a programme of well-attended open meetings. What is The Independent Group compared with all that? What could it offer even if it becomes a proper party? Can the founder members even agree on a programme?

Posted in Op-eds | 104 Comments

Layla running for President and Norman to join TIG?

The Sunday Times has an article today (£) in which a highly worrying quote is attributed to Norman Lamb:

I want to be part of this movement. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed. We have to play our cards in giving it its best chance of succeeding.

Is he about to join TIG?

Well, I’d love to know what he was asked and in what context. By movement, he could mean the general prospect of this leading to a massive realignment of politics. He could be talking about the movement that this party’s strategy wants to drive.

Norman would be missed if he left us, but several senior sources have told me this weekend that they think it is unlikely that he will.

One said:

He is such a passionate Liberal and so loyal to the Party.

He has always been really good at working together across parties. I really wouldn’t want to lose him. However, his comments are not out of step with the feeling among our MPs generally. They think that the TIG project is just the start and that there are great opportunities for us from what may unfold in politics in the short to medium term.

The Sunday Times report has this to say about relationships between the two groups:

Meanwhile, a merger with the Liberal Democrats appears unlikely. Many of TIG’s founders believe the taint of the coalition years makes a formal alliance with the party politically toxic. What they instead want is for the party’s 11 MPs to join their new one, and they have been sounded out by Leslie and Berger about switching.

Lib Dems, on the other hand, feel protective of their party’s machinery, membership and history, and will not abandon it all for an upstart group with no official status and no formal policy platform. Some even feel uncomfortable about the prospect of joining forces with former Tories. “I worked with Anna Soubry during the coalition,” said one. “I like her, but she’s not a liberal. In many ways, she’s one of the last genuine Thatcherites left.”

I suspect that first paradoxical paragraph is an accurate reflection on what some members of TIG think of us. But it doesn’t make sense to say that  we’re toxic because of the coalition while accepting two MPs who were part of it, one of whom as a minister.  And then to say that we should join them. That’s about as all over the place as it gets. However, we have amongst our MPs three excellent and highly skilled former Cabinet ministers and two excellent and highly skilled former ministers. TIG is bound to be hoping that they can get someone to move across, but I see no indications that this will happen.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 88 Comments

How do we respond to the Labour split?

The news yesterday morning that there is to be a new breakaway group inside the House of Commons, the ‘Independent Group,’ is an historic moment. That may seem hyperbolic, but the anger and resentment displayed by those seven who have left the Labour Party was as damning as it was dramatic. It showed once again why Jeremy Corbyn is, and always has been, the wrong person to lead the Labour Party, let alone be Prime Minister. 

Talks of electoral alliances have of course led to discussions about how the UK’s main centrist party reacts. Echoes of the days of the SDP seem a bit early as the movement has not yet morphed into a political party yet, but if more join the group it could become both a serious challenge for Corbyn to overcome and also a friendly group for the Lib Dems to cooperate with in the Commons, with similar positions on Brexit. 

So far, there seem to be few plans to create another alliance. I think this may well be sensible. The new group define themselves as heavily on the social democratic wing of the spectrum, potentially in opposition to many of the more centrist-leaning principles of the Lib Dems. There is of course the danger that an alliance could damage the independence of our party, as going further to the the left would alienate many potential voters looking for a centrist alternative. It may well be a risk to hard to take for many inside the party, and the failure of the SDP to really change the political landscape still hangs in the mind. 

Vince Cable tweeted yesterday that he was ‘open’ to working with the new group and announcing that there will be discussion between the two sides over how to stop Brexit, which both the Lib Dems and the Independents see as a national disaster. We should welcome discussion over Parliamentary cooperation, but whether there is a public appetite from members and the wider electorate to see a merge remains to be seen. But any moves should definitely be treated with caution at this stage, I think.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 59 Comments
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    David-1 Hear! Hear! Very good post!