After Chuka Umunna was unable to detail issues that he had with the 2017 Labour manifesto – the formation, direction and even duration of The Independent Group is worrying.
Earlier this week, Ian Austin, former MP of Dudley North, became the ninth MP to quit the Labour Party. According to BBC News, “A Labour spokesman suggested Mr Austin should stand down and call a by-election in his West Midlands seat, which he won by only 22 votes in 2017”. Austin told the BBC: “One of the main reasons I joined the Labour Party as a teenager here in Dudley more than 35 years ago, was to fight racism and I could never have believed I would be leaving the Labour party because of racism too.” Austin also states that he was too ’embarrassed’ to remain under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership for allegedly “creating a culture of extremism and intolerance”.
Most interestingly about this resignation however, is that Ian Austin does not intend to join The Independent Group (TIG) but to sit as an independent member, which could be a dangerous catalyst for the Labour Party. This could likely motivate many other Labour Party MPs to defect and channel their reason for leaving into one of two issues, or both: anti-semitism and/or Brexit, as Chuka Umunna exemplified in a BBC Radio interview with Nick Robinson.
This brings rise to the many issues facing TIG. According to The Spectator, “The Independent Group is not your standard political party. It has no manifesto, no popular base, no memory of struggles, victories or defeats. Rather than a movement in search of political representation, it is a group of elected representatives in search of a movement”.
The Independent Group considers itself to be a new political power disturbing the manner in which old legislative issues works. The Group seeks to “occupy a space in the centre that traditional party politics divides have left empty”, urging individuals to make a change and take a stand. Members of The Independent Group, otherwise known as ‘Tiggers’, have had to prompt Brexiteers to their cause or they risk becoming irrelevant once the UK leaves the European Union – which is definitely happening.
Though TIG is still “new on the scene” and further resignations are likely to follow, the Group has to face the necessity of providing clarity on who they actually are, what they stand for and what they intend to change – and most importantly, their post-Brexit plan, since it can no longer be their scapegoat.