The Top 10: Best-judged breakaways

People who struck out on their own and made it big

John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Friday 04 June 2021 17:52
<p>Emmanuel Macron, who broke away and won</p>

Emmanuel Macron, who broke away and won

Thanks to Robert Shrimsley, who suggested I should follow the list of ill-judged breakaways (inspired by the European Super League) with one of the best-judged breakaways. He started the ball rolling with number one.

1. En Marche. Emmanuel Macron’s new party, launched in 2016. It was a breakaway from the Socialist Party in that Macron was still minister for the economy in Manuel Valls’s Socialist government at the time. Macron won the presidency in 2017 and is up for re-election next year. Nominated by Robert Shrimsley.

2. The United States. Can’t argue with Patrick Rock, James Dinsdale and John Peters. Others in the “breakaway countries” category include Slovakia, which was the poorer part of Czechoslovakia but then boomed; Norway, which broke from Sweden; and Ireland from the UK, although the Irish economic miracle took quite a long time.

3. Professional Darts Corporation. Barry Hearn persuaded the top 16 darts players, including all active world champions, to join a breakaway league. It is behind Sky’s paywall, but darts has never been more watched. The British Darts Organisation struggled on, but any player enjoying a modicum of success left to join the PDC, and last year the BDO went into liquidation. Thanks to James Dinsdale.

4. Robbie Williams. “Probably the most globally famous British man behind David Beckham for much of the 1990s and 2000s” after he left Take That in 1996, said James Dinsdale. Also nominated by Keriothe.

5. The i paper. Launched in 2010 as a 20p concise version of The Independent. My newsagent gave it a few weeks, but it has gone from strength to strength. Another from James Dinsdale.

6. AFC Wimbledon. Fans broke from Wimbledon FC when the club moved to Milton Keynes; started at the bottom and six promotions later is now in the same division as what is now MK Dons. Thanks to John Peters. Liverpool FC, a breakaway from Everton in 1892, was also nominated by Bill Walsh.

7. Christianity. Possibly the most successful of all, nominated by Bill Walsh.

8. McDonald’s. Became a breakaway from the original McDonald’s when Ray Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers in 1961, leaving them with their original restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Because Kroc had bought the name, they had to rename it The Big M, but Kroc opened a McDonald’s one block away and put it out of business. Thanks to John Peters.

9. The Simpsons started as a series of shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show. The Simpsons became a standalone show in December 1989 while The Tracy Ullman Show was still on air, ending in May 1990. So Conor Downey said it counts as a breakaway.

10. Cambridge University. Founded by exiles from Oxford University in the 13th century. “Shaping up well but probably, as yet, too early to say,” said Richard Troth.

A couple of nominations for Ramsay MacDonald’s breakaway from the Labour Party as head of the National government in 1931 had to be put on hold because of the forthcoming Top 10 leaders who left their parties.

An honourable mention for Conor Downey, who said this list reminded him of a favourite and true story: “In Dublin in the 1950s and 1960s there was a bicycle shop in the north city centre called McHugh’s. Mr McHugh decided to retire and sold the business including the goodwill and hence the name to a third party. A few years later Mr McHugh changed his mind and decided to get back into the business. So he opened a new shop on the same street under the name McHugh Himself and traded successfully there well into the 1970s. His original shop continued to trade, resulting in a single street having two McHugh’s bicycle shops.”

Next week: Conservative pop songs, such as “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Coming soon: Leaders who have left their parties, after Arlene Foster left the Democratic Unionist Party.

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

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments