Chuka Umunna urges MPs from across the political divide to join new centrist group after split from Labour

Posted On: 
18th February 2019

Chuka Umunna has urged MPs from across the Commons to split with their parties and join the new movement he launched today with fellow ex-Labour figures.

Former Labour MP Chuka Umunna made the closing speech at the launch event
Credit: 
PA Images

The former shadow business secretary invited people from Labour as well as from “other political traditions” to join The Independent Group of seven centrist MPs.

He made the comments at an event in Westminster alongside fellow splitters Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker.

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Some pro-EU Tories such as Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston are also thought to be mulling their future in their current political tribe.

Mr Umunna said: “It is time we dumped this country's old fashioned politics and created an alternative which does justice to who we are today, and gives this country and politics fit for the here and now. For the 21st century, not the last one.

“So we have taken the first step in leaving the old tribal politics behind and we invite others who share our political values to do so too.

“You might come from a Labour background, but you might come from other political traditions, and yes it’s a difficult decision, make no mistake about that.”

Without naming any names, Mr Umunna said: “Think about it, you don’t join a political party to spend years and years fighting the people within it.

“You get involved in politics, you join a party to join the world, so we invite you to join your parties and help us forge a new consensus on a way forward for Britain.”

A source from the group added that MPs from all parties would have to ask themselves “are you really happy with the offer that you have got right now to the British public”.

Another added: "Any politician in parliament right now who can look at our values and say ‘yes I completely agree with that' and is disenchanted with their current political home... we would invite them to come and join our group."

It emerged today that five pro-EU Tory MPs are facing no-confidence motions from their local associations, which want them to be more supportive of the Government approach to Brexit.

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The Independent Group said it intended to stand for a "diverse, mixed social market economy", and "progressive values" that had been "been abandoned by today’s Labour party".

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said the split from Labour was "not unexpected, or unwelcome" and said he would be willing to campaign alongside the Independent Group.

"The Liberal Democrats are open to working with like-minded groups and individuals in order to give the people the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU," he said in a statement.

"We will be engaging in talks to progress both that campaign and a wider political agenda.”

Labour has called on the seven to stand down and trigger by-elections to put their new anti-Brexit and pro-business platform “to the test”.