The Top 10: ill-judged breakaways

Misguided (as it turned out) decisions to strike out separately from the pack

John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Friday 14 May 2021 15:00
<p>Alex Salmond at the count for the Scottish parliament elections</p>

Alex Salmond at the count for the Scottish parliament elections

The inspiration for this list is something to do with association football, m’lud. Suggested by Niall.

1. The Jacobite rebellion of 1745. An oddity that a Roman Catholic would launch his bid for the British throne from Protestant Scotland, but Charles Stuart captured Edinburgh for his father James and invaded England, getting as far as Derby before turning back and being defeated at Culloden. Nominated by Peter Dick.

2. The State of Muskogee, 1799-1803. William Bowles proclaimed a sovereign nation of Native Americans near Tallahassee in Florida, but was undone by the outbreak of peace between Britain and Spain (which then ruled Florida). Thanks to Simon Cook.

3. The Confederate states, 1861. Didn’t go well. Nominated by Devon Swede, Tony Jebson and Yaniv Ben David.

4. Joe Chamberlain. Left Gladstone’s Liberal government in 1886 to become a Liberal Unionist, eventually joining a Conservative government before resigning in 1903 over tariff reform, leading to the 1906 landslide defeat. Double nomination from Stephen Pollard.

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5. Newfoundland. Became a self-governing dominion of the UK, separate from Canada, in 1907, but had to be ruled directly from London to save it from economic collapse and it eventually joined Canada in 1948. Thanks to John McTernan.

6. Pimlico, as in Passport to, 1949. British government tries to starve it back to British rule. Paul Keeble, Gs workbench and Jeff Kaye insist its breakaway was ill-judged because at the end of the film rationing returns and it rains.

7. The “rump” SDP. In 1987 David Owen refused to support a merger of the SDP and the Liberal Party and resigned to lead a breakaway SDP, which retained the original branding but soon fell to pieces. Nominated by Steven Fogel and John Rogan. You could argue that the SDP itself was an ill-judged breakaway, from Labour in 1981.

8. The Independent Group broke away from Labour to form a new party in February 2019. Nominated by Elliot Kane and Christian Wolmar. The ill-judgedness is contested: it obviously didn’t do their careers any good, as all 11 MPs lost their seats, but they could claim to have been brave and right. Hard to say whether they achieved anything: Steven Fogel said they should have defected straight to the Lib Dems to try to stop Brexit.

9. The Sussexes. “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family,” they said in January 2020. Thanks to Mark Boyle.

10. The Alba Party. Alex Salmond’s cunning plan launched in February this year to set up a shadow SNP to “cheat” (Nicola Sturgeon’s word) the regional list system of Scottish parliament elections. Ended up with nul seats. Thanks to Duncan Hothersall.

Attempts to nominate Brexit not (yet) accepted from Ian Daysh, Malcolm Redfellow, Ute In Europe, Edmund Paton Walsh, Half Woman Half Mince Pie and Dave Parish.

Next week: Disastrous rebrandings, after Standard Life Aberdeen relaunched itself as abrdn.

Coming soon: Tribute bands, such as Proxy Music and Ziggy Sawdust.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to

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