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18 February 2019

Which other MPs could defect to the new party?

A smattering of Labour and Tory politicians could join the Independent Group in the coming months.

By Eleni Courea

Seven Labour MPs jumped ship today to form a new Independent Group in parliament. More politicians from both major parties could be set to join the new party’s ranks over the coming months. 

Within Labour, some of the likeliest splitters are those who have vehemently decried their leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism. Parliamentarians who genuinely agree with Luciana Berger that Labour is “institutionally anti-Semitic” or with Mike Gapes that it is “racist” can do little else than to quit entirely. 

Margaret Hodge is one such MP—in July she called Corbyn a “racist and anti-Semite”, leading to a disciplinary investigation against her that was quickly dropped in an attempt to stave off the split. Louise Ellman, Pat McFadden, Catherine McKinnell, Siobhain McDonagh, Ruth Smeeth and Wes Streeting (who tweeted today he will not quit) have all recently criticised the party’s response to anti-Semitism. 

Another group of politicians that is deeply dissatisfied with their own parties are those campaigning for a second referendum. A clutch of Tories – chiefly Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, and Sarah Wollaston – were reportedly involved in the talks about forming a new centrist group. No one will be surprised if any or all of these MPs, who have fallen out of favour with their local associations and Tory colleagues, decide to leave. 

Finally, as with defectors to the SDP in the 1980s, the MPs who have the least to lose from leaving their party are the ones most at risk of being deselected. Four of the MPs who quit – Leslie, Berger, Smith and Shuker – face deselection. Others in the same position include Mary Creagh, Joan Ryan and Angela Eagle, all of whom have been critical of the current leadership over anti-Semitism and/or Brexit. Two MPs who have already quit Labour and sit as independent MPs, John Woodcock and Ivan Lewis, could also end up being recruited to the new group.

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