18 February 2019

The Independent Group @theindgroup Labour leavers

The Independent Group (image @theindgroup)

You have to admire people who stand up for what they believe in.

To read that seven Labour MPs have left the party to continue as The Independent Group of MPs was certainly a surprise. But, when you dig a little deeper and hear their stories it is perhaps less surprising. The Labour party has been having very public challenges for some time, and the rest of government is seemingly in disarray!

My first question, though, has to be who is going to steady the ship now? We’re in the midst of one of the biggest shifts in modern British history. Just days from the Brexit deadline and we’re still none-the-wiser about the direction we’ll take. Yet another big international business has announced potential job losses today (Honda is set to announce the closure of its Swindon plant in 2022, placing 3,500 jobs at risk). High street firms are announcing difficulties every other week. And multiple sectors are posting concerning updates.

So many people have commented on British politics being broken in recent weeks and months, is this a symptom of a broken system? A party in power who can’t agree on their leader’s vision for Brexit, which results in in-fighting and power struggles. On the other side of the house is an opposition that is now split and presumably looking to recruit other disgruntled MPs. Then you have a public who is so tired of debates and indecision, who are split themselves. Has there ever been a time in modern politics where Britain has been so divided?

By its very nature, the result of the Brexit vote means it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Any outcome leaves a majority of the population alienated and potentially worse off.

Driving change

For these seven to stand up for what they believe in to leave a party plagued with anti-semitism and a leader who has ‘changed’ the Labour party ‘irreversibly’ takes real guts. Clearly they believe that they can drive real change in making such a move.

The very public struggles of Theresa May and the Tory party present an opportunity for Labour to show a united front, as a worthy opposition. However, it seems that no one can agree on anything in Westminster these days!

Watching the Commons certainly offers a huge number of leadership lessons. The necessity of involving those around you from the beginning, of being a respected leader and of tackling issues properly as and when they arise, to name just a few. One of the leavers, MP Luciana Berger told BBC 5Live that she hadn’t spoken to Labour leader Corbyn since 2017! How can you lead a team of people you never speak to?

Now, Corbyn and the Labour party simply have to pause to take stock. What has gone so wrong that these individuals felt the need to leave? How could the party have handled things better? What commitments can they make to stop others leaving? Ultimately, The Independent Group have given Labour feedback, but in its harshest form. Now, Labour must react.

One thing is for sure, when we’re already in the midst of a sustained period of uncertainty, the last thing we need is more uncertainty!

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