And so it at long last came to pass: seven formerly Labour MPs walked out of the party to enjoy a brief moment in the limelight before strolling off into well-remunerated obscurity as venerated columnists and talking heads, having damaged the Labour Party, just as the larger part of our free and fearless press would have wished.
The seven who have walked away from the democratic left-wing party they all joined when it was, er, a democratic left-wing party, are Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Chuka Umunna. All will now sit as a group of allegedly independent MPs. None will fight a by-election. And that’s not good enough.
All were elected as Labour MPs. Had they not stood for that party, been supported by all the unpaid volunteers, and backed by senior party figures, none would have achieved that same level of success. And, whisper it quietly, none of them would survive another electoral contest, by-election or General Election, standing as independents.
As befits an organisation which thus far has served merely for the lucky seven to stand up one at a time and denounce the party that supported them, as if they were reprising Nikita Khrushchev attacking Stalin, the Independent Group’s website has already crashed. But we do know something about their values, or, it seems, the lack of them.
“Our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to put the best interests of our constituents and our country first”. But no by-elections. Do go on. “Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed”. Could someone give me some indication of what that actually means, apart from nothing?
And then comes a real pearler: “We believe that our Parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people”. Apart from this being meaningless drivel - no-one in Parliament doesn’t think that - once again, if accountability is the word, then why no by-elections?
Moreover, where are the Tories, and representatives of other parties, throwing their lot in with the seven? No Anna Soubry, no Sarah Wollaston, no Heidi Allen. No Lib Dems. Only the cat-calling against Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues from has-beens like Jamie Reed, and no doubt those high profile supporters.
On top of that is the sure and certain knowledge that sooner or later, those who are backing the Independent Group will be identified and their motivations examined. In 1981, the SDP had its own backers. The new breakaway group will need its own. Also, the SDP had some serious big hitters from Labour - Roy Jenkins had been Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary. David Owen had been Foreign Secretary.
Looking at the lucky seven of the Independent Group, there are none of those big names. Nor are there any who, like Owen and Jenkins, might hold their seats at a General Election. No, there is only obscurity to come. The right-wing press will love and sustain them. Question Time will doubtless honour them. And that will be all.
All of that for one brief heroic moment and a few supportive headlines. Sad, really.
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