Tory ministers hold secret talks with Independent Group MP over party split

Posted On: 
1st March 2019

Tory ministers who are mulling whether to leave their party have held secret talks with a member of the breakaway Independent Group of MPs, it has emerged.

MPs from the newly formed Independent Group
Credit: 
PA Images

A source from the group said one member of the Government had even sent them a note saying “well done for what you are doing”.

Eight Labour MPs and three Tories dramatically quit their parties last week to join the new movement which has vowed to shake up the political system.

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Last night it was confirmed that former Labour frontbencher Chuka Umunna would be the TIG's spokesman, while ex-Tory Sarah Wollaston would be charged with recruiting new MPs.

One member told journalists today: “The notion of there being a new party and its attractiveness is something I have spoken about with sitting ministers over the last 12 months.”

They added that a minister had penned them a hand-written note of encouragement which said they agreed with everything the group was saying.

Other MPs had been “very supportive” of the breakaway group and had “hugged and kissed” the members.

Elsewhere, it emerged the Independent Group has no plans to stand any official candidates at the upcoming local elections in May.

“I just don’t think at this stage we are going to be contesting by-elections or local elections,” a source said.

POST-IT NOTES

Former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie has been given the TIG's Treasury brief and Mike Gapes clinched foreign affairs.

Former Tory MP Heidi Allen got the welfare, social care and business role, while her colleague Anna Soubry will speak on Brexit and justice.

The group picked the positions by sticking post-it notes on tables and having each member write their name on the ones they were interested in before holding a discussion to reach agreement.

Members of the group said it was not a disappointment that other MPs had not decided to join them so far, after prominent figures this week ruled out defecting. 

One of the MPs said: "It’s frightening to leave your party for a lot of people. Don’t underestimate, particularly in the Labour party, the impact of fear in so many respsects.

"That is why people are quiet, that is why you often don’t know who is going to jump... becuase they are bloody frightened.

"If you look at the abuse, the threats, all that kind of stuff - if you do it what is going to happen to you? You are going to get graffiti on your front door."

Another source said the group would not require other MPs to join in order for it to become a political party.

MP APOLOGY FOR 'SCABS' JIBE

It has also emerged that Labour MP Lloyd Russell Moyle was forced to apologise to the Labour defectors after he branded them “scabs”.

A senior Labour figure is said to have told the Brighton Kemptown MP five times to say sorry before he finally did it.

Mr Russell-Moyle had said Labour was on course to back a second EU referendum and that once it did “those scabs that left will suddenly regret the day that they ever left the Labour party”.

Labour MPs Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey were first to join the Independent Group last month, followed by Joan Ryan.

In the days after their announcement, Tories Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry joined them.