The Independent Group

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Group.png The Independent Group  
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Eleven MPs (8 Labour and 3 Tory) have joined The Independent Group
A breakaway faction in the British House of Commons, made up of MPs strongly opposed to Brexit. Only existed in 2019.

The Independent Group was a British political grouping of seven former Labour Members of Parliament who resigned from the party on 18 February 2019. The principal reasons cited for their departure were dissatisfaction with the Labour leadership's approach to Brexit and allegations of Antisemitism in the UK Labour Party.

Initially trending on Twitter as the #InsignificantSeven,[1] The Independent Group was joined by Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP on 19 February 2019,[2] becoming the #HatefulEight.[3]

On 20 February 2019, three Tory MPs – Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, and Dr Sarah Wollaston – resigned the Tory whip and their party membership in order to join the newly formed pro-EU breakaway organisation, The Independent Group.[4]

On 29 March 2019, Change UK - The Independent Group was registered as a political party with Heidi Allen as its interim leader.[5] Following the UK/2019 General Election, the Independent Group for Change was disbanded after failing to win any seats in Parliament.[6]


The group was founded by Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Chuka Umunna who simultaneously announced their resignations from the Labour Party on 18 February 2019. Four of the MPs had represented the Labour and Co-operative Party and three the Labour Party.[7] Announcing the resignations, Berger accused Labour of having become "institutionally anti-Semitic".

They have urged people in other parties to join them.[8] Umunna also said that there was "no merger" with the Liberal Democrats planned: the group wants to build "a new alternative".[9]

Political reaction

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded:

"I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election."[10][11]

Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that they had a "responsibility" to resign and fight by-elections as they had been elected as Labour MPs and should seek the approval of the electorate on their new platform.

Others stressed reflection, with deputy leader Tom Watson suggesting the party had to change in order to stave off further defections.[12]

Labour MP Ian Austin warned Corbyn that there could be more defections from Labour.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union, said the seven breakaway MPs should call by-elections:

"If they regard themselves as democrats, I wonder if they are going to stand down and create by-elections" and "give their constituents the opportunity to see if they want them elected." UNISON leader Dave Prentis said that the split was "terrible news", stating that "split parties don't win elections". His comments were endorsed by GMB leader Tim Roache.

Ahead of the breakaway, Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that his party would "work with them in some form" but that the Lib Dems would not be "subsumed" by them.[13][14]

Brexit Party MEP and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said that the split was the start of realignment in British politics.

Media reports

The BBC reported that two Tory MPs were thinking of joining the group.[15]

Craig Murray tweeted:

I am willing to accept bets of any amount that the Corrupt Seven MPs get more TV time between now and their disappearance at the next General Election, than all 35 SNP MPs - with at least a ratio of 2 to 1 on #BBCQT and the #R4Today programme.[16]

Structure and funding

The group is not a registered political party, but rather a group of independent MPs without a leader. The group is supported in its aims by Gemini A Ltd, a private company[17] started by Shuker.[18][19] This company is not subject to the same restrictions on donations under UK law as registered political parties are. Berger said that the seven have funded the launch themselves.[20]

On 19 February 2019, The Herald reported that The Independent Group will not be eligible for so-called short money given to other opposition parties. The House of Commons has confirmed that short money is not available “to a new political party, if it was established in the middle of parliament”.[21]

Aims and policies

The group, whose key message is: "Politics is broken. Let’s change it", has stated that it aims to pursue evidence-led policies, rather than those led by ideology, with the group being tolerant of differing opinions. Specific values include social market economy, freedom of press, environmentalism, devolution, subsidiarity,[22] and their opposition to Brexit.[23] All support a second EU Referendum.

Shuker has stated "[we] back well-regulated business but in return we expect them to provide decent, secure and well-paid jobs", while Leslie has stressed the group is pro-NATO. Moreover, the group have stated they support a "diverse, mixed social market economy".[24] The group also oppose antisemitism and racism, with Berger and Smith accusing the Labour Party of being "institutionally racist".[25]


Later on 18 February, founding member Angela Smith appeared on the BBC's Politics Live programme, where she said "The recent history of the party I've just left suggests it's not just about being black or a funny tin..." in relation to a comment on the BAME community and a discussion about racism in British society. The final word was partially uttered, but was widely reported to be "tinge". She apologised shortly afterwards for having "misspoken".[26][27]

Craig Murray commented:

The really scary thing about Angela Smith's "funny tinge" remark on the BBC is that neither the BBC TV News at 5pm nor the BBC Radio 4 5pm news mentioned it, despite massive puff pieces for the Corrupt Seven. Yet if @HackneyAbbott makes a mistake over a number...[28]


Party Members

Mike Gapes4 September 1952
Rachel Johnson3 September 1965
Christopher Leslie28 June 1972Labour MP who quit and joined Change UK in protest at the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn
Chuka Umunna17 October 1978UK Labour politician, then Edelman and JPMorgan Chase .
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  1. "#InsignificantSeven"
  2. "Ryan’s departure means half quitter group had been no-confidenced by members"
  3. "The Independent Group becomes the #HatefulEight"
  4. "Three Tory MPs quit to join The Independent Group"
  5. "Change UK - The Independent Group"
  6. "General election 2019: Anna Soubry disbands Independent Group for Change"
  8. Channel 4 News, Channel 4, 18 February 2019
  9. {
  12. "More Labour MPs could leave party, deputy leader Tom Watson admits"
  16. "Corrupt Seven MPs"
  20. Channel 4 News, 18 February 2019
  21. "Funding blow for breakaway MP group"
  28. "The really scary thing about Angela Smith's "funny tinge" remark..."
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