Well, no one can say they weren’t warned. After endless speculation about the potential spawn of a centrist party, this week, just like that, it happened. A coalition of moderate Labour MPs and ‘one nation’ Conservatives have joined forces to form The Independent Group (we can only pray that this name evolves into something more interesting at some point.) The UK hasn’t seen anything like it since the creation of the SDP in 1981.
The Independent Group (TIG?!), is not formally a political Party yet, but it seems probable that they will become one sooner or later. For the moment, the shockwaves caused by these 11 defectors are still fresh, and they will be hoping they can attract as much attention and momentum in the early days as possible, to convince others to come on board.
But what will the impact of this be? Long term, it could be huge. A very significant number of MPs from across the House will find themselves ideologically closer to this new Party than to either Corbyn’s Labour or May’s Conservatives. This could potentially be the beginning of the end for two Party politics, for Labour vs Tory, for the status quo. Of course, there are obstacles they need to overcome. It’s all very well trying to ‘split the difference’ as centrists, but they will need to take some binary standpoints too. What would the new Party’s stance be in a no-confidence vote for instance? Do they back May and come across as Tory-lite? Or do they back bringing down theGovernment and play into Corbyn’s hands by potentially forcing an election? Tough questions that need careful thought if this group is to truly take off in the long term.
In the short term though, it is hard to see how this will change much at all. As anyone who follows Sky News and its doomsday clock will know, it is just 35 DAYS until a potential no deal Brexit. That’s just 840 hours. Or 50,000 minutes! Rejigging the make-up of Parties in Parliament now may feel a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If Theresa May insists on ploughing ahead, a few break aways will change nothing. After all, the 3 former Tory MPs who are now in TIG were voting against May on Brexit anyway. The fact that they will now vote against her with a different hat on doesn’t actually change the Parliamentary arithmetic.
So there you have it. Long term significant. Short term, as you were. But at least we’ve had some drama eh?