Yves here. The implications of the defection of seven Labour Party members over their distaste for Jeremy Corbyn go beyond Brexit, which means it’s over my pay grade. Nevertheless, the fact that no one from the Tories joined them and that the UK already has a perfectly good centrist party, the Lib Dems, that have been hemorrhaging Parliament seats suggests that this exodus is more of a blow, or perhaps only a dent, to Labour than the start of a grand new enterprise.
Even though readers had an extended discussion about the departures, the press has had another day to chew on its, and media reactions can both amplify and dampen political maneuvering.
Now admittedly some Tories may join; the BBC reported last night that two were considering it; the Telegraph claims it could be as many as five. The most likely names are People’s vote backer Anna Soubry, who is also a buddy of Chuka Umunna, and Antoinette Sandbach.
Even, so, this mini-revolt does damage Corbyn. Barnier had urged May to work with Corbyn on his “customs union” idea, which we pointed out, didn’t solve the problems it has been billed as solving (the Irish border and frictionless trade). Nevertheless, some sort of cross party effort seemed like the only way to break out of May’s box. With both party leaders both looking like damaged goods, it’s even harder to map out a way to steer out of a crash out.
From Clive via e-mail:
Yeah, I cannot figure out any possible benefit for anyone other than the Conservative party. If there were to be any defectors then they would have crossed the isle today. Even if a couple of Conservative MPs sidle over in the next few weeks, they just look shifty bystanders who only put their toe in the water when others have made their move. If any Conservative MPs do join in this week, it makes no difference anyhow as they’ll have been defying the whip anyway so it doesn’t change parliamentary arithmetic.
The centre ground is already very well catered to with the Liberal Democrats who have an excellent local party structure and highly effective ground campaign ability in their stronghold English constituencies and counties (and some urban areas plus some Scotland winnable seats / local authorities). I fail to see any logic in another attempt to capture the centre ground by any new party when the centre ground is already now yesterday’s political arena with all the action happening in left / right populisms. Whatever votes the new party steal from moderate conservatives or moderate Labour voters, they’ll be merely purloined from the Liberal Democrats. Splitting the centre vote allows Conservative marginal seats to remain Conservative.
The other way this might be being played is that the new party will be a foil to Farage’s new Leave Party (don’t know the official name and am too weary to even search it lest my search engine thinks I’m actually interested in this and search is even more crapified than it already is). But I don’t get that either. There isn’t any scope for a single issue party to gain national representation in the U.K. electoral system. UKIP failed to win a single parliamentary seat even when it got 10-15% share of the vote. And in any case, what does a Party of Remain do apart from capture protest votes? Again, the Liberal Democrats fulfilled the role of the remoaner go-to party perfectly adequately. So for U.K. politics as a whole the new party is just robbing Peter to pay Paul.
And only a couple of the MPs have name checkability. And even then not for good reasons.
Chuka Umunna is another in a long, long list of former Next Leader Candidates who ended up misjudging the political mood and found themselves on the wrong side of the political spectrum. Flouncing off to form a new party ‘cos your old party doesn’t want you is always a bad look. Luciana “anything Israel does is absolutely fine by me” Berger just doesn’t want nasty old Corbyn talking about the Palestinians. I don’t know why he does either, but at least he’s a conviction politician showing his convictions. No-one really buys the endless antisemitism complaining as being anything other than scores being settled. And the Conservatives have got the Jewish vote totally and utterly sewn up anyhow.
Still, it all gives the Guardian something else to write about.
The problem of course is that the UK electoral system makes it very hard to see breakaway MP’s holding on to their seats, so you will end up with two dominant parties, neither of which really represent the general public mood. That’s not a very stable situation.
As Politico noted in its morning European newsletter:
SECOND REFERENDUM MOMENTUM? What do the resignations of seven MPs from the opposition Labour Party mean for Brexit? Charlie Cooper has the answer: “Their hope might be that polls will begin to show that the Independent’s Brexit stance is making a large number of voters think about switching from Labour — and that this will be a powerful inducement to the Labour frontbench to change course.” Given that Brexit is 39 days away today, they all better hurry up a bit.
And finally, from Richard Murphy:
By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK
It is hard to say Labour split yesterday. Seven MPs did instead throw a very minor strop and the supposed Independent Group resulted.
It’s easy to tell why they are both wrong in principle, and so bound to fail. These are two of the eleven statements of principles that they issued:
- Britain works best as a diverse, mixed social market economy, in which well-regulated private enterprise can reward aspiration and drive economic progress and where government has the responsibility to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayer’s money and a stable, fair and balanced economy.
- A strong economy means we can invest in our public services. We believe the collective provision of public services and the NHS can be delivered through government action, improving health and educational life chances, protecting the public, safeguarding the vulnerable, ensuring dignity at every stage of life and placing individuals at the heart of decision-making.
In the first they suggest that there is ‘taxpayer’s money’. I question where they place the apostrophe. And they are, anyway, wrong. They do not understand that a government with its own currency and central bank creates money for the country, and not the other way round. That’s a fundamental flaw.
The second paragraph suggests that the government is wholly dependent on the private sector for its ability to spend. They might as well have sent a note to the bond markets saying ‘please be generous to us’. It appears that Chris Leslie, almost certainly the most incompetent man to have ever been given the title Shadow Chancellor, has still learned nothing at all about money and macroeconomics.
This lot deserve to fail.
The UK needs a new politics. It is not getting it.