The formation of The Independent Group (TIG) is already reshaping British politics. They may be small in number but the sheer fact of their existence and their high profile is changing Labour’s course. The creation of the group is tipping the balance of power in the party on two significant issues; supporting a second referendum, and taking stronger action on antisemitism. The Labour leadership now know that they’re taking a hit in the polls, that emboldened critics of Corbyn could comfortably defect, and that they must make more of an effort to reach out.
The case of Chris Williamson having the whip removed this week was for saying the party had been ‘too apologetic’ for antisemitism is perhaps a good example. The moderates in the party were apoplectic and without his suspension, we may have seen more defections. It is hard to overstate what a significant impact Luciana Berger being bullied out of the party by antisemites has had on many Labour MPs: they’re on the edge and the party must show itself to be doing more. But pro-EU Labour MPs are also on the edge too, with the overwhelming majority of labour members, supporters, and MPs supporting a second referendum. The TIG is successfully picking up these voters (in the polls) and potentially these MPs too. Labour’s move towards a second referendum comes in the context of the leaderships failure to deal with two huge political issues. It’s hard to imagine Corbyn suspending his old comrade Williamson or supporting a second referendum without the TIG coming into being. Congratulations Chuka, Luciana et al: you’re getting more done outside the party than you would have from within under this leadership.