Independent Group For Change disbands after losing every MP at general election

‘There is clearly a need for massive change in British politics’ but now not the time, says former MP Anna Soubry

Jon Sharman
Thursday 19 December 2019 20:40 GMT
Change UK: Six MPs quit as Anna Soubry becomes leader

The Independent Group For Change is being officially disbanded after all its MPs lost their seats in the general election.

The party, founded in February by MPs who had defected from Labour and the Conservatives, said it had begun the “process for closing” and admitted it not been able to “cut through as a distinctive political force”.

The group tweeted: “It was right to shine a spotlight on Britain’s broken politics. But having taken stock and with no voice now in parliament, we begin the process of winding up our party. Thanks to all who stood with us.”

Anna Soubry, the former Conservative MP who led the ill-fated centrist group, added in a letter to members: ”Whilst there is clearly a need for massive change in British politics ... a longer term realignment will have to take place in a different way.

“Honesty and realism are at the core of our values, and we therefore must recognise that the political uncertainty of recent months has now given way to a settled pattern in parliament for the next five years. So this is the right time for us to take stock.”

Shockwaves rippled through Westminster in February when the breakaway group of seven Labour MPs, including senior figures Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger, announced they had formed a new political movement known as The Independent Group (TIG).

The seven to quit Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party included Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith and Ann Coffey and they were soon followed by colleague Joan Ryan.

They protested against what they said had been a lack of action on antisemitism and a move to the left of the political spectrum under Mr Corbyn.

Known as the TIGgers as a result of the group’s initials, their numbers were boosted by the defection of three disgruntled Tories – Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Ms Soubry - with the MPs hopeful of creating a centre-ground and pro-Remain powerhouse.

Five of its founders – Ms Berger, Ms Wollaston, Mr Umunna, Ms Allen and Ms Smith – would go on to join the Liberal Democrats after splitting with The Independent Group for Change.

Ms Soubry said the loss of those MPs dented the party’s ambitions but argued her cohort did manage to have an impact on British politics during its short existence.

“I do not doubt Labour shifted its position to a confirmatory second referendum because of the courageous move made by Chris, Mike, Ann, Joan and others,” she said.

“We called out the dangers of the Conservative Party’s no-deal Brexit and identified the drift in the party further to the nationalist right wing.”

Mr Ummuna and Ms Berger, standing for the Liberal Democrats, also failed to win re-election last week.

Additional reporting by agencies

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