Less than half a year ago, Chuka Umunna described the prospect of a new political party emerging from the People’s Vote campaign as “utter bollocks”, claiming he would never support a move which would “aid and abet Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and others”. Today
Upon hearing this news, I decided to visit the Independent Group’s website to better understand what it was that this new group stood for. I was greeted with a white blank page, learning later that the website had crashed after only a couple of hours;a fitting metaphor for a group of MP’s whose vision for Britain remains vague and ambiguous.
It seems their main purpose is to fix British politics which to them is ostensibly “broken”. Are they right to suggest this? Maybe so, there are a significant group of people who have felt left behind for too long by mainstream party politics. But splitting from the Labour party to fix this
Centrism is not the answer to this mess. At times of immense social and political unrest centrism has proved inefficient. We have seen this in France, with substantial protest directed towards President Macron and his centrist government. In Britain, the Liberal Democrats, despite having offered a People’s Vote for months, have failed to win over any disaffected voters. The Labour split will only make the politics of this country more fragmented, more convoluted and more divisive by splitting the left-liberal vote.
In splitting the left vote, Umunna and co. have handed the Tories a lifeline. Not only does it drastically increase the prospect of a 1980s style Tory landslide, it also may have inadvertently have scuppered the slim chances of a second referendum. People’s vote campaigners need Labour MP’s like Umunna to endorse a second vote and help win over the Labour frontbench. By defecting the party, Umunna has offered MP’s reluctant to a People’s Vote the chance to frame supporting a second referendum as aligning the Party with a group of rival MP’s. The Independent Group have identified what they stand for, but have offered no answers as to how they are going to change Britain for the better. A second referendum at present time has no chance of getting through Parliament with or without Labour backing.
It cannot be denied that some of the anti-Semitic abuse which MP’s like Luciana Berger has received has been vile. It is also true that the Labour leadership has been too slow in confronting these issues and bringing these Party members to justice. However, we cannot pretend that just by leaving the Party the issue of anti-Semitism on the extreme left will go away. Labour would be best equipped to root out anti-Semitism with the help of MP’s like Berger whose struggle and defiance can be used to champion inclusivity in the face of extremism.
Ultimately, this split was inevitable. These MP’s are remnants of the New Labour project, whose visions are irreconcilable with those of Corbyn. As much as this split is about Brexit and anti-Semitism, what unites all these MP’s is opposition to the Corbyn project.
Now, more than ever, it is vital that Labour re-affirm its values and unite behind Corbyn. This split offers Labour an opportunity to both rally behind Corbyn’s message of hope but also work harder to deal with issues surrounding anti-Semitism in the party.