Change UK forced to change name again after threat of legal action

Struggling party – which endured a painful split just nine days ago – now has its third name in just four months

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 13 June 2019 18:17
Change UK: Six MPs quit as Anna Soubry becomes leader

Breakaway party Change UK has suffered fresh embarrassment after announcing it has been forced to change its name again.

The struggling party – which endured a painful split nine days ago – said it was ditching its name under threat of legal action from the campaign organisation

“We are applying to register ourselves as ‘The Independent Group for Change’,” it said in a statement – having been born as the Independent Group at its launch in February.

Extraordinarily, the party admitted it knew the name Change UK could not be used permanently before it fought the European elections under that banner last month, failing to win a single seat.

The statement said: “Ahead of the European elections, lawyers for the organisation disputed our right to register as ‘Change UK’ with the Electoral Commission.

“Under threat of legal action by, which would have involved each MP being sued personally, and with no time left to register a new party name to contest the elections, our leadership at the time felt we had no option but to sign a legal agreement preventing the permanent use of the name Change UK once the campaign was over.”

The party said a new name was needed by Saturday, adding: “So, today, we are applying to register ourselves as ‘The Independent Group for Change’ and will await the Electoral Commission’s decision.”

The move comes after it was left with just five MPs when the remaining six who had joined in February walked out, in a bitter row over strategy.

Then-leader Heidi Allen proposed a merger with the Liberal Democrats, having pushed for tactical voting in the European elections to maximise the pro-Remain challenge to Nigel Farage‘s Brexit Party.

Anna Soubry – the new Change UK leader – was furious, believing it made sense for it to be joining with other parties.

Ms Allen, a former Conservative, left and now sits as an independent, alongside the likes of Chuka Umunna, who had defected from Labour and was viewed as the long-term leader.

Change UK was also embarrassed when the commission ruled its logo out of order, because its design was “likely to mislead voters” and “contains a link to online material”.

As a result, on election day last month, the European parliament election ballot papers had an empty space next to the party’s name.

Despite the multiple setbacks, the statement added: “We remain determined as a party to tackle the big issues facing the country.

“Preventing a disastrous no-deal Brexit and fixing Britain’s broken politics remain our absolute focus as we begin to build our new policy platform.”

The split left four former Labour MPs – Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey – as the other remaining Change UK MPs, alongside Ms Soubry.

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