23rd February 2019
So called Independent Group smile in the face of political oblivion
Labour splitters finally took the plunge this week with the insignificant seven firstly making their move, to set up the so called Independent Group, closely followed by Labour Friends of Israel Chair, Joan Ryan, and three austerity supporting Tories, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen.
Quick to spot an opportunity to hang onto some headline grabbing political coat tails Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, has offered a non aggression pact with any Independent Group MPs who trigger by-elections in their constituencies, by not standing candidates against them.
The flaw in Cable’s plan is all too obvious. These worthy democrats, advocates of a second vote on the EU referendum, elected on the Labour manifesto of 2017, which clearly stated Labour would seek the best Brexit deal for the UK, are reluctant to stand down and test their views with their own constituents. The same is true of the Tory troika.
Justification for this was put by Enfield North MP, Joan Ryan, interviewed on Radio 4 this week. When asked why she would not be standing down to put her position to voters in a by-election she was quite clear as to her reasons. Slightly paraphrasing, she essentially said that she had made it clear to voters in 2017 that Jeremy Corbyn had no chance of becoming Prime Minister, so they could still vote for her, safe in the knowledge that Corbyn would not end up in Downing St as a result.
Quite what mandate Ryan believes that position gives her is open to question. The assumption that voters put their cross against her name on that basis, rather than voting for the Labour candidate because Corbyn offered a genuine alternative, is probably delusional. In any event, it does not suggest that any great efforts will be made to woo Ryan back into the Labour ranks. She is clearly better left heading towards political oblivion with her cohorts.
The hypocrisy of the Independent Group having shown itself in its first days, there is little that is likely to commend them to an electorate desperate for a resolution to the Brexit issue, an end to austerity and a programme which offers a vision to rebuild the UK economy by investing in people and the regeneration of public sector services.
As the Tory party continues to fracture over the Brexit issue it remains Labour that has the only clear position that can lead the UK to a resolution of the crisis. Jeremy Corbyn, in his letter to Theresa May, on 6th February clearly articulates what is needed. A UK wide Customs Union, close alignment with the Single Market, agreement on workers rights, environmental and security issues.
This is a position many EU leaders have said they could do business with. It is a position which could command the support of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons. It is a position which exposes the hypocrisy of both the hard right Tory European Reform Group and the closet Tory, Independent Group.
It is a position which it should be easy for Labour MPs to articulate and hold the government to account for failing to deliver.
Three Cabinet Ministers, led by Amber Rudd, are calling upon Theresa May to rule out a no deal Brexit, in line with Labour’s position, and are preparing to vote for an amendment in the House of Commons to this effect. What little support May thought she could hang onto is clearly dwindling. The Tories are limbering up for a leadership challenge in the summer and are beginning to jostle for position.
At a time when a united opposition is the real necessary ingredient to continue the push for a general election, the Labour right wing create a diversion by putting their own personal position and egos before the needs of the people. The Independent Group is a sham. Once its members are put to a vote of the people, it will quickly be exposed as one. The sooner we can get to that point and have a Labour government with a radical programme of reform elected, the better.