Seven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party to stand as independents under the grouping “The Independent Group”, strikingly in tune with The Independent; independent in name, centre left in nature. I jest, but the split from Labour is certainly interesting and the signs of it happening were there for all to see. Many of the members of the new group had faced calls for deselection from grassroot Labour supporters in their constituencies and all have been noted critics of Corbyn during his tenure as Labour Party leader. What we shall now have to watch and see is whether this fizzles out into nothingness or sparks other Labour MPs to change colours in the face of growing frustration from within Westminster with the clearly broken political system when faced with an issue as elephantine as Brexit.
Is this a likely scenario? Potentially. There are reports that several anti-Corbyn Labour MPs may be deselected at the next general election, including notable Parliamentarians such as Hilary Benn (previous backer of Yvette Cooper’s amendment to May’s Brexit deal) and Mary Creagh (a rival candidate to Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 Labour leadership contest). Obviously these are hypothetical scenarios and it may transpire that deselection may not occur, but the evidence is there of serious discord with some Labour MPs over Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and the alleged anti-Semitism problem within Labour. The members of the Independent Group are all facing a backlash from their local Labour organisations, so although there is undoubted ideological reason for their defection, it was more than likely aggravated by a potential deselection from their constituencies.
Although an exciting development, we will still have to see if further Labour defections follow, or whether Corbyn will take a change of tack towards Brexit as a result of clear internal opposition to his current approach. Fundamentally though, Corbyn is an historic Eurosceptic, highlighted by his low profile during the build up to the EU referendum and his inflexible strategy that is leading the country down to Beachy Head.
Is this recent split a sign of a change in the format of British politics? Although I certainly hope so, I sadly don’t think such radical change will be occurring imminently. Brexit has clearly put immense strain on Westminster with more notable disagreement with Party leaders than there has been in recent years.
I still vainly hope that one day my dreams of a non-two-party political system in this country could exist, with both the Conservatives and Labour splintering into their various factions, so we could have a political system where coalition governments are encouraged using a Single Transferable Vote system and a more egalitarian political process as a result. However, this looks set to remain a pipe dream – for now.
Image: Sophie Brown