Chuka Umunna becomes main public face of the breakaway Independent Group
Chuka Umunna has been made the official spokesperson for the Independent Group of breakaway MPs.
The former Labourfrontbencher's high-profile role was revealed as the group finally announced each of its MPs' policy areas.
Mr Umunna, who is one of eight Labour MPs who quit his party to form the new grouping, alongside three Conservatives, had previously hinted at his ambition to lead the bloc, telling Sky's Sophie Ridge that he hoped "to play the biggest role".
Among the other briefs handed out to MPs, former Tory business minister and outspoken second referendum backer Anna Soubry has been tasked with shadowing both Brexit and justice.
And in a sign that the group are hoping to expand their presence in Parliament, former Tory MP Sarah Wollaston has been handed the task of looking after “new colleagues”.
Mr Umunna said: “Our team is diverse and drawn from different backgrounds, including a former teacher, social worker, lecturer, entrepreneur, solicitor and GP.
“We intend to draw on all talents and experiences of our group, as we seek to change politics and give the British people a proper alternative to the broken politics being offered by the main political parties.
“We are not a political party and therefore do not have a leader, but the roles and responsibilities we have assigned recognise that all members of our group have the right to be heard and a responsibility to provide leadership.
“Our structure is designed to be flexible to accommodate any changes as the group evolves and grows.”
Luciana Berger, who branded Labour “institutionally anti-semitic” when she quit the party, will take on the home affairs, health, and the digitial and culture brief, while Angela Smith will cover transport, local government, energy, environment and rural affairs.
Former Tory MP Heidi Allen, who was outspoken about the government’s record on welfare, will speak on business, social care, welfare and pensions. Ann Coffey will take charge of the children and education brief.
Meanwhile, former Foreign Affairs Select Committee chair Mike Gapes will take on responsibility for defence and foreign affairs while ex-Labour MP Joan Ryan will speak on international development.
Chris Leslie, who served as Shadow Chancellor during Harriet Harman’s interim leadership in 2015 will tackle Treasury and Trade, while Gavin Shuker will act as the group’s convener.
The move came amid growing support for the group – with a YouGov poll putting the breakaway bloc on 18%, up four points from the week before.
The survey showed that more than a quarter (28%) of voters who backed Labour in the 2017 general election said they would switch to the new Independent Group in a vote tomorrow, with 9% of 2017 Tory voters saying they would do the same.