++Three MPs quit the Conservative party to join the Independent Group (plus one more Labour MP)

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The Independent Group now has eleven MPs in it, the seven original resignees from the Labour party, Joan Ryan who left Labour last night and three Tory MPs who resigned from their party today. The Guardian reports:

Three Conservative MPs – Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen – have quit the party to join the Independent Group founded by former Labour MPs.

In a devastating critique of Theresa May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations, the three MPs said the Tories had lurched to the right, adopting Ukip policies and pursuing a hard Brexit.

Their move reduces May’s already tenuous working majority to eight, raising still more questions over her authority amid rumours that there could be further Tory defections to come.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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66 Comments

  • Colin Paine 20th Feb '19 - 2:00pm

    11 MPS, I think?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Feb '19 - 2:39pm

    On the day the ex Labour mps started it, I gave it a warm welcome and made it clear this is what I yearn for.

    O this day I say this is the most exciting development in politics since the SDP Liberal Alliance.

    I see this as my party, the Liberal Democrats can and must be part of this or the whole thing shall fail.

    Heidi Allen , outstanding , I have admired her for the courage on universal credit and the wonderful and impressive woman she is, today at this press gathering I see a leader in waiting.

    AnnaSoubry made it clear her liking of the coalition was because of the Liberal Democrat input too. She is a big personality.

    Sarah Wollostan, moderate, gentle, intelligent. A doctor, by calling, who brings every bit of that at its best to our public debate. We need that expertise.

    It is over for politics as usual. We are in better than alliance territory. We are in together , or this country is f…d.

  • The Guardian article linked by Paul quotes a Labour source as saying that the defections meant that “The Independent Group has now become a Tory-Establishment Coalition.” The source added: “What unites the 11 MPs is their business as usual support for austerity, corporate tax cuts and big money corrupting politics.”

    That being the case, it seems to me that Mrs May could get her deal through Parliament by replacing the DUP as her supply and confidence partner with this new group on the basis that the deal will be put to a binary referendum between accepting the terms or remaining in the EU.

    The agreement would last only until the referendum was held following which (depending on the outcome of the referendum) the group could either form a new political party; join the Libdems or return to a Labour party that had taken sufficient steps to cleanse itself of anti-semites in its ranks and a Conservative Party that had faced down the ERG.

  • Paul Barker 20th Feb '19 - 2:49pm

    If we look at the new Poll, Libdems + TIG + Greens add up to 23%, just 3% away from being the second Party in British Politics. Its noticeable that the Independents seem not to get any of their votes from us or The Greens, these are extra converts to Centrist/Progressive/Anti-Nationalist ranks.
    This is very early days of course but the way I see ahead is for Us, TIG & The Greens to form an Electoral Alliance with the aim of becoming The UKs largest Party within a few Years.
    We did it in the 1980s (till the Falklands War) we can do it again, but with a wider reach this time.

  • I think Vince needs to make a big offer to the 11 by putting everything up for negotiation. There simply isn’t the room in UK politics for 2 centre ground parties. As exciting as it is danger lurks round every corner.

  • The Lib Dems are in a very bad spot. The enormous coverage that the new Centre party is recieving is further pushing the Lib Dems down the chain, there is almost no air time given and the party nestles between 6 -10 % in polling ..the battle for fifth place Nationally is going to be hard…I do wonder if any Liberal Democrats may be tempted to slide over to the Independents if only to preserve their seats. Interest ING times.

  • Christian: we have been here before in 1981, as I well remember being a Liberal chair of a North East constituency the Alliance almost won in 1983. Just leave it to play out, do not force anything at the moment. If the Indepndent Group can get 23 then there is the possibility of a Commons voting group in 3rd place, more publicity. Let things happen naturally over the next 4 – 6months, do not allow yourself to be pushed one way or the other by the predominantly negative right wing media

  • Helen Dudden 20th Feb '19 - 3:46pm

    Paul you have to admit it’s interesting. I don’t feel politics will ever be the same again.
    We have a very violent gang and knife crime culture. Drugs are rife and now the terrorist is being shown we won’t tolerant the hate on our streets.
    Corbyn is not respectful of Jewish ideals. In France hate crime is not secretly spoken. I’ve received today, an article on the protests against hate crime in France from a Jewish contact.
    We will see what the future brings, but it will bring change I hope for the better.

  • This is slightly more complicated for the Lib Dems.

    All the Labour defectors are in constituencies where Lib Dem performance in 2017 was pitiful (only in Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger’s constituencies did the Lib Dems scrape home a saved deposit). Whilst local Lib Dem parties would no doubt resist, getting the Lib Dems to stand aside in a future election would be of little loss.

    Heidi Allen’s constituency of South Cambs is very different. Given the performance in last year’s local elections, I imagine this seat would be a Lib Dem target and rightly so (and the 2017 result was very respectable). So the standing aside question becomes quite sticky.

    I guess if Neil Coyle (Bermondsey) does jump from Labour (he’s very much of the TIG mould), then that would be very interesting. Probably the only route back to victory for the Lib Dems there.

    I wonder what other specific seats have this potential dynamic (centrist Lab/Con MP, Lib Dem most likely main challenger)

  • I wish the new grouping well, but who knows what may happen in the future. They are all Independents with no local organisations or a common manifesto. If a May deal is signed in the next few weeks, she may well call a General Election and will try to swamp all the Independents as will Corbyn’s Labour. They could be very happy to have a group of friends who already have the pre-requisites, and a couple of hundred thousand leaflet deliverers too. I am quite content to stay a LibDem, as in the long term they may need a fallback position. I see the usual suspects on Twitter already turning the knife with sympathy for the “poor old LibDems” “ignored and forgotten”. Don’t fall for their crocodile tears… I’m not.

  • They only need another 2 MPs, then they’ll be bigger than the Lib Dems.

  • John Marriott 20th Feb '19 - 4:04pm

    We do indeed live in interesting times. Whereas the eruption in 1981 largely concerned the Labour Party, this time the Tories have got sucked in as well. Some contributors are stressing about the space on the middle ground becoming overcrowded. For me this could be the beginning of a coming together of like minded MPs who could between them wrestle EU negotiations out of Mrs May’s hand before it’s too late.

    I would not wish to adopt ‘Silvio’s’ cynical attitude. It’s not about self preservation. It’s more like national preservation. I just hope that enough MPs will be emboldened by the ‘Independents’ to act more like representatives and not delegates in the next few weeks at least. They need to put party loyalties to one side and do what their consciences dictate.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Feb '19 - 4:16pm

    I was told last summer that what we are seeing now ‘would be happening any day now’.

    The implications were:

    That the build up of the Break Aways would be rapid and would jeopardize the ability of the Government to function because of its lack of control over the House that a General Election would result in short order , to restore the functioning of Government.

    That certain Lib Dem campaigns needed to be ready and waiting for these events.

    That ‘the chosen ones’ were in the know and would not be opposed in their campaigns by followers of the new grouping. (They were not talking just about our held seats, you understand). Think those in seats facing Tory Brexiteers with a good platform to win in these conditions.

    Either this attempt at creating a ‘movement’ comes to nothing or we must hope that a) Vince has done a good deal, and b) that the ‘movement’ does not get too carried away with its growth rate and success so as (a la Blair 1997) to go back on its word.

    Time will tell, it seems.

  • Defending Parliamentary seats is very hard to do. We know that, but managed to do it with our 12 seats (including Eastbourne). UKIP only managed to do that with 1 seat at a General Election, as did the Greens. The Independent Group will now try to defend their seats as outsiders, and not the insiders that they previously were. The chateratti can scoff all they like about our irrelevance but I know who I’d bet on for now.

  • Oh, Dear….More of the ‘Look left, look right, cross LibDems”…

    As Clegg found out between 2010-15 the centre ground is not a fertile area for this party.
    So now there’s a ‘new kid in town’ chasing those same numbers…In 2015 the LibDems got 8 MPs.

    Any predictions for the next GE?

  • The dire consequences for the Lib Dems hasn’t just happened out of nowhere..the dreaded Coalition lost the party the vigour and commitment of so many people that the coming of a new Centre party was almost certainly going to smash whatever support was left..how can members ignore the almost zero coverage you are recieving…the Independent Group will be supported by generous donors and get huge National coverage…I think the Lib Dems are tired and weak…blame the dreaded Coalition for this. Chickens always come home to roost in politics.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Feb '19 - 5:17pm

    expats 20th Feb ’19 – 4:40pm
    Winston Churchill changed parties from Conservative to Liberal, leaving his father’s party behind him as old-fashioned. He was distrusted by Conservatives who asked his local party chairman to give him a hard time.
    At a time of crisis he became PM of a coalition with active support from Labour MPs and from his friend David Lloyd-George. Roy Jenkins notes that Churchill did not become leader of the Conservative party at this point.
    Winston was quoted as saying that “It is OK to rat, but not to re-rat.”
    The new independents are likely to be busy defending their own seats against candidates from their previous parties, so maybe we might not stand against them, but on current resources it seems unlikely that they would want to stand in seats that we currently hold.
    None of their current seats are in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
    Chuka Ummuna MP has tweeted that PMQs are a bad idea and hopes for something different. What does exist is a more thoughtful committee in which the PM is the only witness and the questions are put by the chairs of other committees.

  • @Theakes – the main problem with letting it just play out is that we could be weeks away from a GE in the current political climate. If we want centre ground politics to thrive then my personal view is that we should discreetly offer to make Lib Dem personnel available to the Independent group in return for an agreement that we fight any GE in a coordinated manner and have a clear plan of attack. If we don’t do that then they could fall flat on their faces and we could get caught up in it at the same time. The threat of a GE has got to be our biggest concern

  • Peter Watson 20th Feb '19 - 6:40pm

    @Paul Barker”If we look at the new Poll, Libdems + TIG + Greens add up to 23%, …. the Independents seem not to get any of their votes from us or The Greens”
    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Today’s YouGov poll shows Lib Dems going from 10% to 7% with a significant transfer of voting intention to TIG while the hit to Labour’s (and the Conservatives’) voting intention seems to be largely to “Don’t know”. (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/02/20/14-would-vote-independent-group)
    The field work for this poll precedes Conservative MPs joining TIG’s ranks, so I’m sure there’ll be more to come!

  • Silvo,
    Watch the dance, the timing is everything, at some point Vince and co will dance onto the dance floor. This appears to have been long planned and I suspect the number of dancers will surprise us.

  • Christian: Just slow down, it is very doubtful if there would be a general election, more likely a delay to article 50 etc and a referendum. The situation has to play out over the next few weeks, you can be assured there is a greater plan between the Independents and the Lib Dems, after all they have been seemingly talking and planning for some time.
    The first task will be to decide what happens at Newport West in the coming by election. Who fights it, probably depend on who identifies the best candidate, somebody with local knowledge and a national political personna. Kirsty Williams comes to my mind but I am sure this is all in hand. Need to ensure we avoid the fisco of the Darlington by election when the badly selected SDP candidate blew what should have been a victory. The ramnificatrions of that failure reverberated through to the General Election a few months later. Between us we have to get it right. I am sure we will.

  • @Christian: “ The threat of a GE has got to be our biggest concern”.
    Really? I beg to differ. The much more urgent, real and concerning threat is surely the continuing risk of a “no deal” Brexit on 29 March … and people’s minds should remain focussed on that. Lest we all forget, the clock is still ticking!

    The threat of a GE, on the other hand, is merely theoretical and speculative. Obviously, if the TIGs manage to attract several more Tory MPs, that could wipe out the notional Tory/DUP Govt majority – but that does not necessarily mean that HMG would lose a vote of no confidence in order to trigger a GE. (If push came to shove, I suspect that the TIGs may well abstain rather than vote with the official opposition, i.e. Labour.) In any case, I very much doubt that, in current circumstances, either of the main parties would be particularly keen to have their internal divisions exposed to the scrutiny of a GE campaign – so, unlike falling over the cliff-edge of Brexit, a GE is probably unlikely to happen anytime soon.

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Feb '19 - 7:42pm

    I found Heidi Allen’s speech intensely moving in its sincerity.

    Do the new grouping use the term TIGS to describe themselves? It makes them sound like cartoon characters from a children’s programme.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Feb '19 - 8:24pm

    Jayne Mansfield David Raw

    We can as we often do, disagree and yet agree often also. Yes , this was my point the other thread, two or three of real calibre then, now, three more, Heidi has been a favourite for a while for me, as with Sarah and , my fellow Nottingham resident, Anna, these I have defended and extolled here way back.

    I see in Heidi a new leader for the centre ground. We need to join in asap, I shall be involved come what may from the party, with tow mps down the road, a first for me, have not had a local mp I can back for two decades.

  • If the new group selects as leader one of the three ex Tories it may be in with a chance – in some areas. If there were an election tomorrow most IGs would be gone though (people in the political bubble always over estimate personal votes, and all 11 will be targeted heavily). Kirsty Williams really should not (and am sure won’t) fight Newport West, if you want a surprise look to the Tories (sadly, but if that comment is a surprise to you am afraid Wales ain’t what it was!). The former leader of the Tories in the Assembly walked a local by-election in the Vale last week, in a platform of
    Opposing the closure of the local school (which of course was a policy of the Tory Vale Council!). You couldn’t make it up. Anyway, Kirsty voted to continue dumping sludge from the Hinkley Point reactor site in Somerset offshore from Cardiff and the Vale, so don’t imagine there’s much will to help her if she did want to leave her position as Welsh Education Secretary!

  • Jayne Mansfield David Raw…..

    I disagree. I found all of the ‘Tory3’ speeches a little hollow on history. Their concerns seem clear but the rot didn’t start with May becoming PM; have they forgotten her performance as Home Secretary? Cameron’s tenure, far from being an ‘enlightened period of reform, saw the introduction of UC, deserving/undeserving poor, austerity for austerity’s sake, etc.

    You praise Heidi Allen especially…A cursory glance at her voting record on human rights/equality, on welfare and disability payments, use of military force, etc. belies today’s sob story. Hardly my definition of a ‘caring’ person.

  • @Jayne Mansfield

    I gather the rumour is that the tiggers are going to form an alliance with the official Winnie the Pooh party but it may find them too bouncy!

  • @David Raw

    I appreciate the point but she stood on a 2015 General Election manifesto that proposed taking £5 billion out of benefits and would have voted for the budget that implemented that.

    The PRINCIPLE of Universal Credit was actually praised by the UN Rapporteur, the IMPLEMENTATION and cutting money from it was almost wholly after the 2015 General Election.

    Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston do seem decent enough people. Anna Soubry I am less sure about – although I appreciate her combative nature.

  • By and large, they are not exceptional people. By and large, they do not have exceptional policies. But they have done an exceptional thing.

    We know how this is likely to end for most of the TIGers. It will most likely end at the next election, when the TIG MPs have not (unlike most Lib Dems) had the time to build up winning positions in their constituencies, so they come a creditable second or third, just as the SDP MPs did a generation ago.

    Then they will be out of a job in mid-career. That is what most MPs are terrified could happen to them. So they mostly stay within their Tory, Labour, and indeed Lib Dem party Mafias, which like the Italian Mafia, may have appalling policies, but do take great care to look after their loyalists.

    Breaking with a party Mafia, and putting principles above personal interest, is what the TIGers have done. That’s the exceptional thing. That courage deserves support.

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Feb '19 - 12:44am

    We can work with these people; I agree with the sentiments of Lorenzo and David Raw above, and like David Allen applaud the courage of all. Their joining the fight for the People’s Vote collectively is the first and main advantage. But their wider outlook and aspirations, as spoken so it seemed to me by Chuka Umunna and Heidi Allen especially, give hope for progressive change in the future.

    True, I hesitated over Anna Soubry’s defence of Coalition austerity politics, so that I guess that what she has given progressives is mostly her splendid attacks on Brexit. But Heidi Allen’s commitment now to the cause of the poor and the sufferers from UC make me feel that a moral revolution need not be advanced only by our party, whose spokespeople as David Raw suggests have not yet spoken so forcefully. Christine Jardine, please complement, for there will be so much that needs mending once Brexit is, if it is, defeated.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Feb '19 - 8:48am

    Sarah Woolaston named Peter Kyle MP as a possible, but said that others should speak for themselves. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kyle
    One thing is clear: leaving the Conservative Party leads to happiness, just look at the photos of the walkabout.
    Journalists who do not specialise in politics are getting involved. This morning one asked the Chancellor whether he would resign and tried again by saying
    “Is NO DEAL in the national interest?” The reply was a clear NO.
    Historically the resignations of a Chancellor and his predecessor as Chancellor contributed to the resignation of PM Margaret Thatcher.
    The eleven Independent MPs may have friends in their constituencies,
    so will they be standing candidates in the local elections in May?
    If there are euro elections in the UK in 2019 will they be offering candidates?
    Sarah Woolaston has said that there will be more walkabouts as they try to find out what the electorate wants from the new Independent Group.
    She did not say where they will be going.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Feb '19 - 9:11am

    @ David Allen,

    I suspect that if they ever do form a party with policies it will be the love child of Blair/ Cameron.

    Some of the electorate seem to have forgotten or forgiven the damage wreaked on the country by these two, so they may get support.

    For how long is anyone’s guess.

  • Steve Comer 21st Feb '19 - 9:36am

    I too am impressed by some who have joined the new group but not by others.
    For instance Joan Ryan MP was a diehard supporter of First Past the Post, and I believe others are too. One MP (Angela Smith I think) was dismissive of the Liberal Democrats, though didn’t bother to explain why.
    I think Vince Cable’s statement was very well balanced, and set the correct tone.

  • Sandra Hammett 21st Feb '19 - 10:01am

    Serious question: Could any ardent Coaltion apologists explain to me why those now in the Independent group didn’t join the LibDems? What possible issues can they have with us if it is not how tarnished image?

  • David Raw 20th Feb ’19 – 10:15pm………….Well, expats, just for once we’ll have to disagree…..

    No problem, David. We, and Jayne, agree on far more than that on which we differ.

    Regarding the bit in the ‘launch’about how “The modernising reforms that had taken years to achieve were destroyed.”.
    Forgive me but I can’t remember many ‘modernising reforms’ (although ‘modernising’, like ‘reorganisation’, is rather flexible in meaning) under Cameron’s premiership.

    I too am frustrated with Corbyn but, as I’ve often written, there are, currently, only two games in town and I can live with most of his policies.

    On Brexit, I listened to the BBC interviews with voters in the TIG’s (horrible expression) constituencies. The majority of those interviewed, both Labour and Tory, seemed still to cling to ‘Leaving’. I must admit that, if anything, my ‘Leaver’ friends have become even more dogmatic although, some friends who didn’t vote, would vote ‘Remain’ in another run.

    I still believe that when, not if, May’s posturing in Europe ends with no real progress and she refuses to countenance a ‘custom’s union’, Labour will back another vote rather than allow a ‘No Deal’ disaster..

  • I found this archive which makes quite interesting reading. It seems Shuker was also a No2AV person as well as Ryan and Smith (and I don’t think any of them opposed AV because they wanted PR instead!):
    https://web.archive.org/web/20111214091116/http://labour.no2av.org/labour-mps-lords-say-no-to-alternative-vote/

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Feb '19 - 10:27am

    @ expats,

    I don’t doubt Heidi Allen’s sincerity, I said nothing about her judgement.

    She is relatively new to politics and probably did not have the experience or understanding to know where Conservative philosophy and policies lead, so rightly or wrongly, I am prepared to cut her some slack.

    As for the rest, their timing is awful for Brexit. For a start they should , if they believe in ‘peoples votes’, stand for re-election. They were voted into power on a Labour manifesto.

    Of the two parties that are likely to be voted into power, it is the policies of Labour that I have most ( not all) agreement with. The latest shenanigans will probably mean that we are in for a Tory government for the foreseeable future.

    I wish our family had close Irish ancestry!

  • Two key points define the problem for Lib Dems. 1 If we and the Independent Group fight each other, neither will be elected – with or without PR. 2 We have policies but they have only individual motives for leaving at this stage. Only if the outcome is a far stronger centre-ground force able to challenge the two largest parties will this be a positive development. We should proceed with caution but openness – friendly noises and listening mode. The immediate unifier is to defeat Brexit through a People’s Vote and that is our top priority for the next five weeks.

  • Jayne, There is a remark in ‘Great Expectations (my O-level Dicken’s) about how, “Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is better”. After all these years I still consider that MPs’ actions speak louder than their words.

    From Owen Jones this morning……….. “Chuka Umunna is no fan of taxing the rich ; Chris Leslie passionately backed the welfare cap and limiting child tax credits to two children. The new Tory defectors all voted to slash and privatise public services, to cut benefits for the disabled and low-paid, to introduce the bedroom tax, to reduce taxes on the rich and to treble tuition fees. After defecting, Anna Soubry declared that “the coalition government did a marvellous job” and that austerity was “absolutely necessary and I don’t have a problem with that”………The new group is the Cameron-Clegg coalition resurrected: pro-market dogma with a splash of social liberalism, and even that’s questionable. Umunna has indulged anti-immigration rhetoric , called for leaving the single market to end freedom of movement, and validated benefits-bashing by arguing Corbyn wanted to give “more generous social security payments for people who can work but refuse to work.” Gavin Shuker did not vote for equal marriage, a fact which should rightly upset LGBTQ people. Angela Smith decribed BME people as “funny tinged”. Tory defectors voted for their government’s draconian anti-migrant policies, which led, of course, to the Windrush scandal….”

    From their voting history, I’d go along with that.

    You write …Of the two parties that are likely to be voted into power, it is the policies of Labour that I have most ( not all) agreement with. The latest shenanigans will probably mean that we are in for a Tory government for the foreseeable future…..I wish our family had close Irish ancestry!

    From many posts on here I believe that the current Tories are preferred to the current Labour and, like you I believe they’ll probably get their wish.

    As for Irish ancestry; my mother was from Kilkenny, so who knows…

  • Peter Martin 21st Feb '19 - 11:34am

    @ Sandra,
    “Could any ardent Coaltion apologists explain to me why those now in the Independent group didn’t join the LibDems? ”

    I’m not such an apologist, but isn’t it pretty obvious why they haven’t just joined joined up with you?

    For a start, what could you offer them? Not to stand against them in the next election? You probably won’t do that anyway – providing they agree not to stand against you.

    It would also raise too many awkward questions. Like why they hadn’t joined the Lib Dems in the early days of their careers. We all know the answer to that but it’s not one they would want to give.

  • This is looking like it will hurt Labour far more than the Tories and be of little or no help to the Lib Dems. The TIG’s have no household names or big new policies and it’s hard to see them making much impact. Standby for a Boris Johnson led government, with a large majority in the not to distant future. Sorry if that though brings up anyone’s breakfast!

  • David Raw – we should be careful about jumping on the Labour anti-semitism bandwagon. A letter in today’s Guardian signed by many Jewish Labour Party members puts another point of view.
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/20/jeremy-corbyn-labour-party-crucial-ally-in-fight-against-antisemitism?CMP=share_btn_link

    Joan Ryan’s break with Labour makes me worry about ending up in the same Party/Movement as people with her views. When Al Jazeera investigated Israeli government infiltration of British political parties in 2017, Joan Ryan came out particularly badly. Firstly, she was clearly unhealthily close to the unearthed Israeli agent who was sent packing but also to Mr Regev the Ambassador. The same Mr Regev was Netanyahu’s propaganda chief during the 2014 Gaza war. (Indeed it was widely assumed that his post in London was reward for that.). This suggests to me that there is nothing remotely liberal about Joan Ryan.

  • Sandra Hammett 21st Feb '19 - 12:03pm

    @ Peter Martin
    Thanks for replying. The Independent Group claim to be moderate, progressive, pro-EU. So my question is why not join the LibDems; a ready made party that already has these values ?
    I’d be fine working with them, I just want to know what you think stopped them crossing the floor to us.

  • Joseph Bourke 21st Feb '19 - 12:21pm

    Sandra,

    the Libdems having had experience of government and a long history of campaigning are going to considered part of the existing establishment by any new group trying to bring about a revolution in British politics. The answer to your question should be obvious – the TIG is the People’s Front of Judea not those Libdem sellouts in the Judean Peoples front.

  • John Kelly,

    I agree that we should be cautious about politicising the anti-semitism issue that Labour has to deal with in its ranks.
    We should focus on ensuring we don’t tolerate anti-semitism, Islamaphobia or any other form of unacceptable racism in our own party.
    We can remain highly critical of the actions of the Likud Israeli government in Palestine without being apologists for Hamas in Gaza or giving any succour or support to terroism in the middle-east.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Feb '19 - 1:02pm

    David Raw

    Every comment terrific this thread, glad you see Corbyn for what some of us knew under less glaring spotlight, years ago, I was in that party, those he hung around with and what he peddled, a disgrace to our country and democracy.

    Iam even more glad to read we agree on these three Tories, especially Ms Allen, a terrific woman.

    Only thing very wrong with this, they are saying, Anna Soubry in interviews, Mike Gapes, too, though not the more astute Chuka and Luciana, tht we should join them, not they us or we all merge. Silly, though it reveals Sir Vince has not done the needed behind the curtain talking very well, what has he been doing?!!!!

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Feb '19 - 1:10pm

    @ expats,

    I always check the voting records of MPs to find the real values beneath the espoused values. It is a very valuable exercise, as is checking those who choose to whitewash what they have supported.

    I just think the TIGS are a distraction we could do without as Brexit roars towards us.

  • Peter Watson 21st Feb '19 - 1:44pm

    @Sandra Hammett “Could any ardent Coaltion apologists explain to me why those now in the Independent group didn’t join the LibDems?”
    I’m very much not a Coalition apologist, and I am sure that the Lib Dem’s “tarnished image” is a factor, but not the only one and possibly not the most important one. If the TIGs (if that’s what we’re calling them now 🙂 ) had joined the Lib Dems then the publicity would have been dominated by the party with pictures of Vince Cable centre-stage. That would make the TIGs’ actions appear very different, and in particular, I do not think that their egos would allow them to look like they were playing second fiddle (though some do seem content to be in Chuka Umunna’s shadow).

  • The LDs may as well shut up shop and join this new group to help form a new centrist party with a new younger dynamic leader who can get air time. Ask the average blue collar, shop floor voter what the LDs stand for and in my experience it doesn’t go much further than they’re an untrusted brand wanting to legalise cannabis and doing a u turn on tuition fees.

  • I heard Ana Soubry on LBC at lunchtime. She was quite clear that the new group wants to attract MPs from all existing parties and not align with a single party. She was equally clear about the willingness of the new group to work with Libdem MPs on shared objectives, referencing the good working relationships she had established with Jo Swinson and Norman Lamb as ministers in the Coalition.
    Similarly, Vince Cable and Chuka Umunna have been cooperating on joint initiatives since Vince’s stint as Business Secretary. This joint article in 2015 https://www.independent.co.uk/author/chuka-umunna-and-vince-cable criticizing Osborne’s obsession with debt targets is a case in point. In May this year, Vince, Chuka Umunna and Caroline Lucas published an open letter coordinated by Open Britain on Brexit.
    The Independent group and Libdem MPs know each other well. Vince’s statements making it clear there will be cooperation with the group and potentially some form of future electoral pact, if and when a new party is organised, is the right approach at this time as the Brexit deadline approaches.

  • Sue Sutherland 21st Feb '19 - 2:45pm

    I agree with Jayne that the TIGs are a distraction from the dangers of Brexit, so far at least. I admire their courage but what they reveal is that neither Labour nor the Tories are going to improve the lives of those people who voted Leave from desperation about their circumstances.
    Who do those people turn to for hope? It should be the Lib Dems but we haven’t shown any clarity about helping them and how we would do so. We need to be a voice crying in the wilderness of British politics, not a whisper.

  • Peter Martin 21st Feb '19 - 3:28pm

    @ Sandra,

    ” I just want to know what you think stopped them crossing the floor to us.”

    As I said before, you haven’t got sufficient of what they want! You might have noticed that the SDP defectors of the 80s did the same thing. They didn’t just decide to leave Labour and straightaway join the Liberal Party, as they could have done.

    Maybe some ex-SDPers can explain why not!

  • “The Independent Group”
    I wonder whether the use of the word ‘group’ was advisable., although I can understand wanting to avoid: ‘Coalition’, ‘Alliance’… But I think this has helped fuel the belief that they are going to form a new party.

    From the public debate, it does seem that people do believe that for democracy to work, MPs have to belong to a political party and hence are uncomfortable with the idea independent MPs can both exist (in significant numbers) and still perform their democratic role to represent the constituents in the constituency in which they were elected; including those constituents that didn’t vote for them.

    Given how Leave and Brexit has largely been driven by party politics, perhaps now is the time to dust down some of the things Nick Clegg was saying before the Coalition about the time has come for a new politic’s.

    The LibDem dream of democracy, of (in public view) greater consensus politics and cross-party working, really requires there to be a larger number of smaller party groupings in Westminster. I therefore suggest, from the conversation here that the LibDems offer the new independent group constituency office and election support. Obviously, I suggest that such support is conditional on signing up to say four key principles/freedoms. I know this might sound mad to diehard members, however it is something many in business understand and could easily trip off a list of benefits to the LibDems.

    Additionally, given voters evident confusion about what exactly they are voting for in a General Election, some redesign of the ballot paper is in order, perhaps removal of political party affiliation, so people are unable to simply vote for a party…

  • Paul Barker 21st Feb '19 - 3:52pm

    It seems to me that TIG have been doing the right things for this stage. By not joining The LDs Keeping it vague they are more likely to attract more defectors. The Media have a natural attraction to things that are shiny & new & we aren’t new any more. They would have generated much less buzz by joining us.
    Soon TIG will move on to the next stage & I am sure that they realise how much they will need our help. We can help each other.
    This is a time for open hearts & minds, its the best chance for us to break the mould in 38 Years.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Feb '19 - 4:43pm

    Paul and David

    Vague isn’t the worrisome bit, the points made are correct , but, think on this, actual comments are made this week that are not as vague, as we should want, talk of, we are not joining the Lib Dems, they are not trusted, or, they should join us, etc, the thing is this, we in my view are in this or out altogether, because, and here Sir Vince has my support, there is no room for two parties in this terain

  • David Allen 21st Feb '19 - 5:05pm

    Why didn’t they just join the Lib Dems? Well, perhaps they listened to the advice Steel gave Jenkins a generation ago. He advised that creating a new party would make a bigger splash. And it did (though admittedly, that also allowed David Owen to come along, and divide and wreck the SDP-Liberal Alliance.)

    We now have two centre groups, with policies that the general public will think are largely identical. (And the public are largely right. Ignore the flimflam about Lib Dems having a rich radical heritage, Jo Grimond and Charles Kennedy are no longer making policy.) How do they differ?

    It’s simple really. The Lib Dems sold out. They took the Tory shilling, gained themselves five years in Ministerial limos, and helped push through austerity. Ending up as apologists for the digital gangsters of Facebook was an apposite finale.

    The TIGers have done the opposite. They have put their personal careers at great risk, for the sake of principles.

    Which group might one suppose will do best at winning the affection of the voters?

    To be fair, there are still many good people in the Lib Dems. My advice would be, show enthusiasm (not just grudging acceptance) for the TIG movement, and “sue for peace” with them now. The leverage you might have with them is probably quite high at this stage, but it will diminish, as TIG proceed to harvest up your popular vote.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Feb '19 - 6:21pm

    David Allen: The first 1½ paragraphs of your post of 21st Feb ’19 – 5:05pm are sensible. But it goes downhill from there.
    So the Lib Dems “took the Tory shilling”. It’s nearly 4 years ago that that ended, so whatever you think of the Coalition, it’s the past. Just move on. Currently it’s the DUP that’s taking the Tory shilling, as we refused any sort of deal after the Tories lost their majority at the last election. The Coalition matters quite a lot less to ordinary voters than you seem to think it does.

    “Ending up as apologists for the digital gangsters of Facebook”

    And here I am thinking WTF?!?!?!?!?!? So Nick Clegg gets a job with Facebook, and that is supposed to be indicative of Lib Dem policy? This is just absurd. Clegg’s role is not Lib Dem spokesperson on Facebook. He is not active in UK politics anymore, whatever he does is not as a Lib Dem envoy, but as a private citizen, and as such he can do what he wants. And because of his position he is unlikely to be heard of much in the UK political arena. So again, very few people care about that.

    “The TIGers have done the opposite. They have put their personal careers at great risk, for the sake of principles.”

    And do you really think anyone joins the Lib Dems expecting an easy road to a career in politics? The Lib Dems did not “sacrifice their principles”; however, the leadership was naive about how it handled Coalition. Most of the TIGers probably had very little to lose, as they were likely finished in their own parties due to disagreeing with the leadership, and many would have been facing deselection. And anyway they are still MPs for as long as the present Parliament has to run. It was a brave decision on their part, but really this is mainly because they had to balance principles against loyalty to the party. But as they had no futures in their old parties, this was just personal political loyalty.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Feb '19 - 8:59am

    David Allen: You ask “Which group [between TIG and Lib Dems” might one suppose will do best at winning the affection of the voters?”
    To which the answer is, the one that has the resources, activists, policies, coherent set of values, and elected representatives (under their own party banner) at all levels of authority. The one that is currently reviving in the opinion polls, and is making gains in local by-elections.
    TIG has none of these. About the only things its MPs have in common are being anti-Brexit, and having fallen out with their respective party leaderships. TIG is not even a political party. Even if it does organise quickly as a proper political party with a coherent policy platform, it won’t be in a position to contest this year’s local elections, let alone the upcoming by-Newport West election.

    One answer to the question “Why didn’t they just join the Lib Dems?” is that they are not necessarily liberals. Two of them were leading lights of the Labour No2AV campaign; one of them opposed gay marriage (and before you bring in a certain former Lib Dem leader, he voted in favour of it).

    The idea that the Lib Dem brand is irredemably tarinished ignores the fact that both the two big parties have bounced back from similar crises in the past. And a party that still has a local presence and strong activist base is certainly not going to be subsumed by a piece of political vapourware that has presence in Westminster and nowhere else. I think Vince is right to say Lib Dems will not stand against TIG MPs, but how we work with them in future really depends on what sort of political party (if any) emerges from them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Feb '19 - 7:13pm

    Alex Macfie

    And do you really think anyone joins the Lib Dems expecting an easy road to a career in politics? The Lib Dems did not “sacrifice their principles”; however, the leadership was naive about how it handled Coalition.

    Indeed – they were told that they were handling the Coalition all wrong by many in the party who have studied this, thought about it, and had experience, and they just didn’t listen to us. They did the exact opposite to what we suggested.

    What was needed from the start was to make clear that as there was no other Coalition that could be formed (not enough Labour MPs and they knew that forcing us to go into it would help them by destroying us) and with the number of LibDem MPs just one fifth of the number of Conservative MPs (thanks to the disproportional representation system), we would have very little power in it. It was essentially a Conservative government in which we would just have a small say. There was simply no way the Conservatives would break their main commitment and electoral promise: to keep taxes down.

    The sort of small parties that do well in coalitions are those with strong committed supporters who only really care about some small aspects, so they can easily be paid off. Otherwise, what happens is that small coalition parties end up getting all the blame for unpopular things and none of the credit for anything that worked. The idea that the LibDems could have got whatever they wanted from the Coalition, and so it would be essentially a LibDem government was nonsense – yet it was commonly believed, and the Leadership did nothing to break this misconception.

    There was an urgent need to explain this when the Coalition had finished, and the opportunity to do that with a new leader. Yet it wasn’t done. Instead, the daft idea that
    we would do well if we said nothing about it and just concentrated on being the anti-Brexit party as if that was all we were about, was pushed.

    We will not move in by keeping silent about this. As we have seen, while people forget the detail of what happened it has just become the permanent belief about us – that the far-right economic policy of the 2010-15 government is the main thing we are about or that we will just tell lies to get elected and so can never be trusted.

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