Former Labour MP Chuka Umunna joins Liberal Democrats after split from Change UK

Posted On: 
14th June 2019

Former Labour MP Chuka Umunna has joined the Liberal Democrats following his split from Change UK.

The Lib Dems are Chuka Umunna's third political party this year.
PA Images

The Streatham MP said his latest party "offer the best chance to improve the lives of those I represent as well as countless other citizens across our country".

He made the move following talks with outgoing Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, who said the party's new MP "will be a great asset to our party not just on Brexit, but in fighting for the liberal and social democratic values".

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But Labour chairman Ian Lavery called on Mr Umunna to call a by-election in the seat he won for Labour in 2017 with a majority of 26,285.

He tweeted:  Three parties in as many months....who’s next ? Put your immense popularity to the good people of Streatham...let’s have a PV (people's vote) on you and your principles. ."

In a statement, Mr Umunna - who was first elected a Labour MP in 2010 and briefly stood for the party's leadership in 2015, said: "I have chosen to join the Liberal Democrats because it is at the forefront of a renewed, progressive and internationalist movement in British politics that shares my values.  

"Labour and the Tories are committed to facilitating Brexit, and Brexit makes ending austerity virtually impossible. The Liberal Democrats are not – they were arguing for a People’s Vote and to remain in the EU from the very start.

"I am convinced the Liberal Democrats, as the spearhead of a broader progressive movement in civil society, offer the best chance to improve the lives of those I represent as well as countless other citizens across our country.”

Sir Vince Cable said: "Chuka and I have worked together effectively for many months, campaigning for a People’s Vote and to Stop Brexit.

 "I know that he will be a great asset to our party not just on Brexit, but in fighting for the liberal and social democratic values that we share.

"He joins alongside 20,000 people across the country just this month, demonstrating clearly that the Liberal Democrats are the biggest, clearest and most formidable force in the liberal centre-ground of British politics today."

Mr Umunna told The Times he would not be taking sides in the upcoming Lib Dem leadership contest between Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, and would never seek the top job himself.

Ms Swinson MP said: "I have said all along that growing a liberal movement means reaching out to bring more people into our party, and I am delighted that Chuka has decided to join the Liberal Democrats.

"I have worked with Chuka on the People's Vote campaign, and I know the passion, intellect, and energy he will bring to our party, and our campaign to stop Brexit."

Sir Ed said: "Stopping Brexit is my number one priority and I welcome Chuka to our benches as a key player in this fight. He has shown huge courage, and will make a major contribution to the Liberal Democrats."

Mr Umunna, Labour's former Shadow Business Secretary, will have to work hard to distance himself from critical comments he has made about his new party in the past.

In 2013 he said: "The Lib Dems should admit the truth: they have broken their promises and backed the Tories all the way. Over and over again, they have said one thing and done another; that’s why nobody believes a word Nick Clegg and Vince Cable say."

Writing in The Independent in 2017, he said: "The Liberal Democrats are trying to bury their recent past as the enablers of Tory austerity, but working people will not forget or forgive the damage they did in government and what it is still doing to our communities."

And as recently as February, when he quit Labour to set up The Independent Group, he said: "You can’t change the status quo if you’re going to rejoin it. So there are going to be no mergers, we are not going to join the Liberal Democrats. We are saying there needs to be a new offer, a new alternative . . . Because the status quo is broken.”