Change UK on verge of splitting ahead of crisis meeting

Key individuals are expected to leave breakaway centrist party - after internal rows

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 04 June 2019 12:55
Comments
Change UK leader Heidi Allen hints that party could merge with Liberal Democrats

Breakaway centrist party Change UK is on the verge of a split, with a number of MPs expected to leave after a crisis meeting on Tuesday.

The pro-Remain party, formed by 11 former Labour and Tory MPs in February, is reeling from a disastrous performance in the European elections last month, when it failed to pick up a single MEP, and has recently trailed as low as 1 per cent in the polls.

The leadership faced criticism for failing to strike a co-operation deal with other Remain-backing parties for the May 23 election, which saw Liberal Democrats soar into second place by mopping up the bulk of anti-Brexit votes while Change scored just 3.4 per cent in eighth.

Former Tory MP Anna Soubry later criticized interim leader Heidi Allen’s “bizarre” suggestion that voters should consider backing Lib Dems. Ms Allen herself has said that the party may not continue under the Change UK banner.

After growing tensions within the fledgling outfit, it is understood that Tuesday afternoon’s meeting will result in the departure of some key individuals who have come under fire internally from colleagues.

But it is thought that the party will continue as a grouping in parliament, whether under the Change UK name, its original Independent Group banner or some other description.

None of the leading figures in the group were willing to comment on the situation, which comes little more than three months after the party’s launch.

Last month, Ms Allen appeared to sound the death knell for the troubled party by proposing a merger with the Liberal Democrats – after her colleague, Chuka Umunna, admitted “mistakes”.

The former Labour MP suggested a pact with the Lib Dems to end rivalries in individual constituencies but, asked if she would go “one step further”, Ms Allen replied: “I would like us to be in the same vehicle.”

Asked if she meant the same party, the former Conservative leader said: “Yeah, probably,” adding: “I don’t know what the format will be, but will we be singing from the same hymn sheet?

“I would hope as a collective, let’s call us a collective, somewhere in the middle with other like-minded colleagues.”

Ms Allen had indicated all the party’s 11 MPs are now moving together towards a closer relationship with the Lib Dems, saying: “I think we are sensible enough to know we can’t do it on our own.

“Do we all agree that the long goal is something centrist together? Then, yes, we are all on that same path.”

Mr Umunna wrote: “We made some mistakes along the way, despite the incredible efforts of our small staff team, our candidates and our 100,000 supporters, who cannot be faulted.”

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