View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
19 February 2019

Will more MPs leave Labour and the Conservatives to join the Independent Group?

It’s a question that’s going to be asked for a while.

By Stephen Bush

Will more Labour MPs end up joining the Independent Group? That question will be part of the background hum of British politics for as long as the Group (and whatever the party it ends up becoming is called) exists.

The magic number for the group is 36. Should they manage to get 36 MPs together, they would overtake the SNP as parliament’s third largest grouping, which would bring with it speaking rights every week at PMQs, select committee chair posts, and Short money – the public funds available to assist opposition parties with their work – as well as having longrun implications for the amount of attention they will receive from broadcasters. While this new group will receive a great deal of attention over the coming days and again whenever they officially unveil themselves as the Radical Party, Up with People or what have you, if this parliament runs its full length then they will need that sustained platform if they are to make a go of it.

But reaching 36 MPs depends on two variables: how attractive a prospect the Independent Group becomes, and how unattractive the other parties are.

On the former: how attractive does the Independent Group look? I wouldn’t pay attention to any polling about the Group at this point as nobody normal knows any of the following: what the party’s platform will be, who the seven splitters are, or even what it will call itself. It make take until a general election for the seven to establish themselves as national figures. One reason why the last election was so volatile is that the all three political parties went into the contest with leaders who most voters didn’t know very much about. Jeremy Corbyn turned that into an asset, while for Theresa May and Tim Farron, their entry into the public consciousness went less well.

So essentially so far all we’ve seen is a moderate stress-test for the new grouping: one which gives us some idea how they might perform on a bigger stage.  On the plus side, in relative secrecy, they unveiled the biggest split in British politics for close to four decades. But that one of their MPs, Penistone and Stockbridge’s Angela Smith, has already had to apologise for misspeaking on national TV is a reminder that the greater spotlight isn’t all upside for the Independent Group.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

But a lot more may depend on the thing the Group can’t control: how unattractive the other parties are. As I said yesterday, the deselection question is a difficult one for Labour – it’s a pipe-dream to conceive of a truly radical Corbynite government with this parliamentary party in place, but deselections will mean defections to the Independent Group, while a similar dynamic will play itself out on the Tory side.

That Derek Hatton, formerly of Militant fame, has been allowed to rejoin the Labour Party, is the sort of development that might underline for Labour MPs who will have nodded along to everything the Gang of Seven said yesterday that their futures may lie elsewhere.

Content from our partners
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola
The hard truth about soft skills
Why we need a national employment service

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU