Nationalisation: a flawed idea, or an economic saving grace?

Nationalisation is often seen as a buzzword. It usually has a weird effect on people that causes them to start rabidly screaming the words “Marxist” at you every time it’s mentioned. With the Labour Manifesto in the public domain, this phenomenon is becoming more and more common. However, if you’re going to make such a comparison, at least give the Communist Manifesto a read first. The Labour party has pledged to re-nationalise industries such as the Royal Mail, British Energy, as well as Broadband services. Whether the policies put forward by Jeremy Corbyn are plausible or not isn’t the point of discussion, I’m more interested in establishing how or if nationalism fits into the modern-day.

Firstly, it must be established that nationalisation is not actually that radical. Corbyn’s manifesto has been called “Radical” by the BBC and even members of the Labour Party, but the actual policy of nationalisation isn’t as extreme at all. America has utilised nationalisation in various industries, and their Government the exact opposite of socialist. Nearly nine out of ten people in the United States receive their water service from a publicly owned utility and in the last 20 years. Since then, nationalisation of the water industry has only expanded. From 2007 to 2014, the portion of people with water from publicly owned water suppliers increased from 83% to 87%. France’s mass nationalisation of its energy industry in the 1980s, Germany’s re-nationalisation of the Print Office in 2008 after it was privatised in 2001, and Iceland’s re-nationalisation of its largest commercial banks in 2008, shows that it isn’t some outlandish or outdated idea. 

This isn’t necessarily a socialist idea, it’s simply economically liberal. What is then done with nationalised industries is what takes it a step further. Even the services stated above are only a partially nationalised industry, as the state does not have a 100% market share and neither does it legally obstruct private companies from entering the industry. The common question asked is, why on earth would the government want to do this? Simple, it’s because we can’t trust the market completely to operate fairly, and when it crashes, the market won’t protect the public.

In some industries – take water for example – it just makes more sense to have fewer entities providing the service because of the infrastructure involved. The economically savvy readers will recognise this as a natural monopoly. It’s even been used to pull banks and other private entities out of trouble. This is done by temporarily buying them to ensure they don’t collapse and cause damage to the economy as a whole. A good example was when the US government took over GM Motors. When the problem is resolved, the government simply sells the company afterwards. In the case of nationalising industry, it allows the consumer to get a cheaper or even free service whilst the government tanks the cost but runs the companies, they are purchased at a profit which can then go back into your pocket.

Some of you will be reading this and think “Why don’t we just do this for everything? Cheap Nationalised Broadband? Sounds great”. Don’t jump the gun. It’s not something to be taken lightly and isn’t always a good idea. When nationalising an industry, the assumption is the government will actually be good at running the businesses in that industry. You can very easily argue that the British Government, in combination with local government, just isn’t good at it.

To paint a picture, I’m going to use the Labour party promise to provide a state-run fibre broadband service across the country. I am a huge PC gamer nerd. I play mostly League of Legends and Counter-Strike, but anyone who plays video games regularly can unite and agree upon a common enemy, bad ping. Lag spikes are actually the worst, and usually, we all have little tricks we use to try and deal with them, but if they don’t work, we are comforted by the fact that we can just switch broadband providers or upgrade our service. If Broadband is nationalised, you might not be able to do that, leaving you with bad ping and poor gaming experience. 

The state wants to purchase broadband relevant parts of BT, but the BT group also owns Plusnet and EE which have their own broadband services. If only the state broadband service is available in the area you live in, and that service just isn’t good enough, you would have to move to get to a different service provider, because currently there are only 5 providers for commercial usage, and 3 of them (BT, Plusnet and EE) could end up under the state service. To make it even worse, Openreach (a BT Subsidiary) maintains the fibre networks that the other broadband services sell, so if a state broadband service was to exist, the government would either need control of that as well or sub-contract it to Openreach. Even with all those complications, it doesn’t even touch on the fact that everyone who currently works for those companies now becomes state employees, and that’s a whole different fiasco.

Although nationalisation isn’t a ‘pipe dream’ like some would call it. The belief that magically buying all these industries will solve itself is certainly naïve. As I have displayed by briefly exploring the result of the nationalisation of just one service, this is not a straightforward process by any means. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the nationalisation plans of the Labour Party as a whole is risky and would require a restructuring of the economy specifically in the area of taxation. This would be a slow and gradual process that would take around 10 years. This doesn’t just apply to the Labour Party’s plan, it applies the nationalisation as an idea. 10 years is two governments, maybe three, governments. Who says our economic situation doesn’t change? Who says halfway through the project it’s no longer economically viable and the whole thing gets put on hold?

Nationalisation isn’t the Marxist evil that many claim it to be, but it isn’t necessarily the undeniable saving grace of the British population that it is being peddled as either.

Labour’s re-nationalisation of key infrastructure can put the UK back on the world map

Labour’s recent policy announcement of nationalising part of BT and taxing tech giants in order to provide free fibre broadband to every household in the country has resulted in the usual displeasure from the right wing commentariat, as well as various Tory and Liberal Democrat figures implying it to be some sort of communistic experiment. Considering, though that BT was in public ownership up until 1984, this is a testament to how far the Overton window has shifted rightward as a result of the neoliberal economic orthodoxy.

The good news is that Labour is effectively challenging this at the upcoming election, as it has been doing since 2017. The pledges to nationalise rail, water, Royal Mail and telecommunications will allow for a new era of economic prosperity to be shared by the many, and are necessary to ending the post-Thatcherite consensus that has held so much back.

Firstly, Labour’s policy to bring about free broadband has already been shown to be hugely popular. YouGov’s snap poll has shown that 66% are in favour of this policy and only 22% oppose it. This follows the trend for polling other forms of nationalisation. Having the rail, water, and mail services in public ownership all seem to have more than the majority in favour.

The Tories economic policies of simply more of the status quo are clearly out of touch with a public which is lethargic of more expensive and inefficient services provided by private monopolies and oligopolies. The economic data seems to back up the public’s perceptions. For example, water prices have risen by 40% since privatisation. More than 12,000 jobs have been lost since Royal Mail was sold off by the coalition government, whilst its boss has gained a pay rise of £100,000 to his salary. These issues are inherent to private ownership, especially of natural monopolies such as rail and water, since any sort of competition is highly limited. When profit for the owners and maximisation of shareholder values become the only goals, fairness and a good service for consumers come last. This is evident in the public perception throughout the previous years.

Critics of such policies, and the large scale nationalisation and spending plans that Labour are proposing ignore the widespread need for such investment into our economy. With the case of broadband in particular the UK is in great need of investment and improvement. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics show that Britain ranks 35th out of 37 countries assessed for the proportion of fibre in its broadband. Furthermore, Britain has fallen from 8th to 10th in the EU for levels of connectivity. Whereas South Korea has 97% of its country covered by broadband (number one on the list by the OECD), with a much more active state involvement in developing the infrastructure needed to roll it out, and indeed with implementing it, compared to only 8-10% for the UK.

Labour’s £20 billion investment goes further than this, it will provide broadband for free, which will save ordinary families hundreds of pounds per year, and bringing the many benefits of fast communication through broadband to every household, which is especially lacking in rural regions. Finally, this policy will be paid for by large tech giants, going some way to address the inadequacy of the tax they pay to the UK exchequer, for example Amazon, which paid only £1.7 million in taxes in 2017, despite profits of £72.3 million. This policy is effective on two fronts. The first, allowing for improvements in fibre broadband coverage in the UK. Second, for its cost burden to fall on those large corporations which are yet to pay their fair share of taxes, as opposed to ordinary workers and consumers. 

Trusting corporate interests to deliver essential services has seemed to be a policy that can no longer be relied upon. Labour’s policy to bring these into public ownership is to be encouraged if we hope to build an economy which serves the public’s interest as opposed to private monopolies who have few incentives to change the current arrangements, catering to their ability to profit off such services as opposed to investing into those services for the good of the public.

OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE: Are the Lib Dems revoking our chance to beat Boris?

Iwan Doherty, an economics commentator for Byline Times, The London Economic and others, is joined by TPN’s Joint Editor in Chief – Seb Chromiak, and Oban Mackie. They discuss the Lib Dem’s electoral strategy in the remain alliance, Labour’s prospects and whether the 4 Day Week should be in the Labour manifesto.

The blues can never be green: why the pausing of UK fracking is an election ploy

After the calling of a general election for December 12th, British politics has taken yet another unpredictable and exciting turn. Already the major political parties have begun to outline their election strategies; from the repetition of Labour’s 2017 strategy that boasts all the optimism of a Manchester United fan’s opinion on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to the Europhilic platform of the Liberal democrats that so nearly distracts from their voting record. 

With headlines dominated for so long by the haze of Brexit that it may now be the national sport of the United Kingdom, one might be forgiven for forgetting the very identities and positions of the mainstream parties outside of the European question. Thus, when the Conservative party announced the “suspension” of fracking operations in the United Kingdom, anyone who has taken an interest in the growing environmentalist movement worldwide would be forgiven for assuming this as the actions of a party that cares about the planet.

Fracking – one of the more contentious methods of extracting shale and natural gas – has received a large degree of public scrutiny in recent years. The potential for geological disruption, resulting in the increased chance of earthquakes and threat posed to local communities, is one of many ecological risks associated with the process, implemented at various sites nationwide. Andrea Leadsom, Business Secretary in the Johnson Government, argued that it was the right move for the Conservative government, who were “following the science… until the science changes”.

Leadsom — who infamously questioned on her first day as Theresa May’s Energy Secretary if climate change was real — seems here to justify the suspension of an environmentally damaging practice; until the point that the facts and circumstances change to allow the government to continue it again sans critique. Here we see the government enacting a temporary suspension of a profitable but ecologically destructive practice, until the science or circumstances change that justify them continuing with the destructive business.

Despite the Orwellian doublespeak of Leadsom, the move is nothing short of part of the election campaign launch of Johnson and the Conservative party. Forgetting for the moment the irony of a campaign centred around the idea of Britain deserving better than the brutal imposition of austerity and political buffoonery masterminded by the Conservatives themselves, Johnson’s political ethos focuses on the notion of “getting things done”. Let us get Brexit done, as the Conservatives cry, and we can focus on getting things done for the police force we have cut, the health service we have dogmatically hollowed, and on resolving the environmental crisis. Suspension of fracking, regardless of its motivations, is in the eyes of the Conservatives at least something they have actually got done in the past years of political weakness and ambiguity.

Indeed, one might be forgiven for forgetting what the political parties of the United Kingdom still stand for in these uncertain to-say-the-least times. The Conservatives can certainly be pointed to as the party of action when it comes to environmental considerations; they cannot be pointed to as the party of environmentalism. This is the party that abolished the department of Energy and Climate Change in 2016; the party that removed subsidisation of renewable energy construction and restricted the ability of renewable energy sources to develop in the United Kingdom; the party that ended the programme of sustainable home development due to a lack of profitability for investors. This is to say nothing of the continued support and subsidisation of Nuclear and non-renewable energy sources; many of which are not only unsustainable, but themselves not profitable. The fact that the Johnson Government has acted to temporarily halt fracking operations in the United Kingdom is simply a drop in the polluted ocean that Conservative policies and ideological profit-focus has helped to create.

This is hardly surprising. It is long documented that free market policies such as those championed by the Conservatives are wholly incompatible with ecological considerations; considerations which require the sacrifice of short term and individual self-interest in order to protect the common long-term good. Such profit-focus is integral to the continued dogmatic adherence to Neoliberalism that runs in the very blood of the Conservative party; an ideology that champions the free pursuit of self-interest for all, giving no consideration to considerations outside of capital and profit. Since the days of Thatcher’s gutting of regional communities, to the willing ignorance to the risks of the most profitable course that led to the Grenfell disaster, the Conservative party have long established themselves as the party that cares only for immediate economic success above any and all else. This perhaps explains why, before the enacting of such an election stunt, the party has been such a champion of fracking; almost a perfect metaphor for the extraction of short-term value with no regard for local communities or long-term sustainability.

It may be worth a modicum of congratulations to the Conservative party. Since Johnson took over as leader of the party and the country, the suspension of fracking is perhaps the one true item that the government can, unlike parliamentary votes and PR visits to hospitals, say that it has achieved success in. Make no mistake, however, the suspension of fracking is in no way motivated by a desire to protect the environment or communities affected by fracking. It is nothing short of a rudimentary and basic election tactic and attempted evidence for its “get things done campaign”; a crumb of success that will be weaponised as a counter argument to the myriad of environmentalist criticisms. When the “Science Changes” in the event the Conservatives win majority in the next election, such a suspension will be quickly and quietly repealed, leading to the next inevitable story of a small community ravaged by fracking disaster. 

As far as Environmentalism is concerned, the Conservative party line is evident; that the planet and the people that rely upon it are an afterthought, until the next chance for Johnson, clad in an ill fitting sports top or hopefully at the top of another zip-wire, to weaponise it for his own party’s success.

Investment firm Goldman Sachs increases No-deal probability forecast by a third

The multinational investment firm Goldman Sachs has increased it’s prediction for the probability for a no-deal Brexit by a third, to 15%, following Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation announcement yesterday.

The firm had previously predicted a 10% likelihood of the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union without a deal, however due to recent election successes believed to be accrued by the Euro-sceptic Brexit Party, and the possibility of a hard-Brexit supporting Prime Minister at Number 10 by mid-June, Goldman Sachs has since revised their estimate.

The probability of no-deal is now as high as the estimate was in April earlier this year, when the probability was cut due to the extension of article 50 by Theresa May’s Government to free up more time to work out a formal withdrawal agreement, of which 3 versions of said agreement were put before Parliament and subsequently rejected. 

An Economist for Goldman Sachs, Adrian Paul, has stated that the firm still expects an “orderly EU withdrawal in late 2019 or early 2020”, but that the organisation’s “conviction” is lowered due to recent events. 

Brexit predictions were thrown into disarray yesterday as Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would be resigning from the role as soon as the middle of next month, and that processes to elect a new leader of the Conservative Party are to begin next week.

Many are placing current Backbench MP Boris Johnson, who has a considerable popularity within the party’s more radical elements for his support for a hard-Brexit, as the most likely candidate to score enough points within the Conservative membership base to be elected as the next Prime Minister. 

This has prompted a civil war within the Conservative Government, as many prominent Ministers of Parliament have either come out in support, or in direct opposition with the potential Prime Minister. 

Mr Paul also clarified that while it was unlikely for the current Parliament to push forward a popular no-deal vote the performance of the Brexit Party, and the potential for having a Hard-Brexit supporting Prime Minister, opens up the possibility for a second referendum vote to have the option of including a choice of “no-deal” on the ballot for the public to decide, which would drastically increase the odds that the United Kingdom, emboldened by a popular vote, would crash out of the European Union onto World Trade Organisation terms. 

Brexit has cost UK economy an average of £600 million a week, top investment firm warns

The investment firm Goldman Sachs has warned its clients that Brexit has impacted the investment finance industry worldwide, and the resulting uncertainty has cost the UK economy £600 million a week on average since 2016.

In a letter sent out to the organisation’s many clients today, the U.S. based firm warned that the current political turmoil caused by Brexit has “had real costs for the UK economy” and that the recent uncertainty around Brexit in Westminster has created a “renewed intensification of Brexit uncertainty.”

The investment firm industry works through directing flows of capital into organisations and industries through the use of investment firms, and the likelihood of investments returning reliable profits influences a large proportion of the industry’s decision-making.

This likelihood of investments providing profits can be inferred by analysts from information relating to the economy, including political, statistical, and world-economic indicators which factor heavily into the decisions made by firms when providing funding for companies.

Brexit and the resulting political turmoil has seen one of the biggest periods of uncertainty in UK economic history, leading many international investment firms to avoid funding business in not only the UK itself, but also other European countries as the full scale of the impact of Brexit on the European financial landscape has not yet been fully realised.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs predict a 15% chance of UK GDP falling by 5.5%, and the blow to confidence in UK markets would see the Great British Pound fall by up to 17%.

The economic uncertainty hasn’t just impacted the economy of the UK, as data released today has also shown that a no-deal Brexit would see the German economy, the flagship financial centre of the European Union, growing half a percentage point slower in the immediate year following a no-deal Brexit due to uncertainty in European markets.

Goldman Sachs’s top analysts also predicted that European countries could see a loss of around 1% in GDP following a no-deal Brexit due to the fallout of a sudden exit.

While still impacting the growth of the UK economy, a Brexit transition deal would lower the financial impacts of Brexit, seeing a 6% rise to the Pound and UK GDP growth increasing by 1.75% in the years following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

While this scenario would see UK GDP and the Pound increasing in value, the rate of growth would be far less than the growth experienced by a pre-Brexit UK.

The option with the lowest economic impact on UK, and world markets, would be the United Kingdom remaining the the European Union. Should the UK stay in the European Union, the investment firm predicts that the UK would see it’s economy return to the growth experienced before the 2016 vote, and would also potentially see the pound’s value increase by 10%.

The bank also alleviated concerns from other European economies around a transitional Brexit, as the bank believes that only a no-deal scenario would create implications for markets outside of the UK.

Investment firm Goldman Sachs reports 51% gender pay gap

US-based investment firm Goldman Sachs has reported a gender pay gap of nearly 51% as part of new legislation that forces all businesses to disclose their gender pay statistics.

The bank paid women 50.8% less than men for each hour they worked at the business in 2018 worldwide, which is around 5% lower than its reported gap in 2017. however, the UK branch of the Investment bank reported a gender pay gap of only 17.9%.

The report also highlighted an average financial bonus pay gap of 66.7% for Goldman Sachs International, with an average financial bonus gap of 40.7% for Goldman Sachs UK branch.

However, it was also found that both Goldman Sachs International and the UK branch of the firm give bonuses to a higher proportion of women at the firm than men, and at the lowest salary groupings, women earned on average more than their male co-worker counterparts.

The report was calculated on statistics based on the average salaries of men and women paid at the firm in the UK, irrespective of role, seniority or performance.

The bank has stated that this doesn’t reflect a lack of commitment to the Equal Pay Act, but is instead indicative of a longstanding issue within Investment banking, that men are more likely than women to gain senior roles and work bonuses.

The highest salary grouping for the firm, which commonly constituted the most senior levels of management, found a pay gap of over 63.8% for the International group, and 55.2% for the UK branch.

Similar reports have been found in other banks, such as the Bank of England, which reported an average pay-gap of 21% and reported that their highest paid employees were 70% male, compared to the lowest paid who were 57% female.

Goldman Sachs have also released an outline for how the investment firm plan to deal with the pay gap and the issue of diversity within the business.

The firm has committed to expanding the diversity in the upper management of the bank, including new policies for childcare and eldercare, as well as new healthcare plans for fertility and gender dysphoria.

The firm also aims to gain a 50% female-male quota when hiring analysts from University and from other companies, along with proportional hiring quotas for ethnicity.

A few stubborn and isolated MPs, or a future political party? What could The Independent Group become?

The landscape of British Politics took a massive turn when seven Labour MPs decided to resign their party whip and start up their own party group in the Commons called The Independent Group. Their main reasons for leaving were; antisemitism, toxicity and entryism within the Labour Party alongside their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s acceptance of Brexit as an inevitability. Other reasons likely include their different economic and social views, with most of these MPs being from the political centre of the party.

The next day, these seven ex-Labour MPs were joined by three Conservative MPs, with similar albeit different reasons for defecting. These reasons being; isolation from the party leadership over Brexit, toxicity of the party due to entryism and being held ransom by the European Research Group (ERG- a group of right-wing Tories) and the Vote Leave campaign. They were also joined on that day by another ex-Labour MP, totalling them now at 11: the same number of MPs as the Liberal Democrats.

They all left for similar reasons, but do they actually have similar political views?

As The Independent Group regularly says: they are neither an official party (yet) nor contesting elections. Therefore they do not yet have a manifesto or any concrete policies- which is logical because they aren’t an established party- although it does play into the ‘centrists don’t actually have any policies’ myth. So far though, we can see a few rough themes forming which could plant the basis of a future political party.

The movement is quite clearly pro-EU in all of its forms, from accepting EU regulations and environmental standards to accepting free movement of people. The only solid policy we can see that all of The Independent Group’s MPs support is a People’s Vote, with the goal of remaining in the EU. The group tends to favour multiculturalism and traditional feminism which could manifest itself into policies in the future.

Although some accepted that austerity was necessary during the recession whilst some don’t, they have a general consensus that they don’t want more austerity, as shown by ex-Conservative Heidi Allen admitting that the Tories have “deepened suffering” when they could have reduced it. Chuka summed up his view saying that the “circumstances of your birth [shouldn’t] dictate your future”. He has also said that they are “leaving old, tribal politics behind” and many, when asked about policy, have used words such as “evidence” and “expert[s]”, overall suggesting that when it comes to policy formulation, they will look at what policy works, is popular and overall benefits the most people, rather than what a party or certain ideology dictates.

This is further supported by Heidi Allen’s comments, that they will determine their support for policies “not in a right-left way…but [based off of] what’s actually going to work”. It seems so far that what they have in common would form the backbone of any future political party which they might evolve into: pro-EU, pro-migration, multicultural, compassionate, transparent and fiscally responsible.

What does the future of this group look like?

The MPs have have been subtly threatening their old parties that if they don’t change, more resignations could follow. This has been humoured more seriously by Tory MPs it seems than Labour ones, although it would be expected (based off the current defection numbers) that more Labour MPs are likely to join. From the Tories though, there are moderate MPs that feel isolated from the party due to its Brexit stance and internal toxicity. Soubry says that she received “smiles” and “waves” upon entering the Commons chamber and sitting on the opposition benches. She also admitted to receiving “lovely texts” from her former-colleagues.

Three likely defectors are Justine Greening, Dr Phillip Lee and Dominic Grieve; all threatening to leave the Conservative Party if they end up accepting no deal from the EU. Lee says that he “can’t guarantee” that he’ll stay and that there would be a “stampede” of MPs leaving the party if the government was to go ahead with a no-deal Brexit. Another moderate, Nicky Morgan, however has recently written an article on why moderates should stay in the party and fight rather than flee, which sounds very similar to what Ruth Smeeth has written, albeit for the Labour party. The Labour Party seems to have divided into four different takes on the split. Looking at these four different takes is a good way of differentiating between those who plan on keeping everything the same, those who seek to amend their errors and those that plan on leaving.

Take 1: tends to be a grassroots approach, seen a lot on Twitter from people with Twitter handles including JC4PM (Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister) and GTTO (Get The Tories Out). This take denies that there is an antisemitism problem within the party overall and takes the form of retweeting the likes of Galloway and Hatton. Take 2: this tends to be the more genuine Corbynite approach which is to acknowledge the problem, mentioning it and then taking no solid action on it. This is seen mainly in the Tweets, interviews and videos by Corbyn and his leadership team/close allies such as John McDonnell. Take 3: this is not just from the moderate MPs determined to fix their party, but from a wide range of Labour MPs: this take acknowledges that there is a problem and that they need to take firm action on it as soon as possible, an example of this is Tom Watson’s video statement and Barry Gardiner’s contribution to the antisemitism debate in the House of Commons. Take 4: threatening to leave the party if nothing changes, removing connections to the Labour Party on social media and retweeting/defending The Independent Group.

Very few, if any, of Labour’s current MPs have done the latter (threatened to leave in the same way as Greening, Lee and Grieve in the Conservative Party), but a few have been jumping to the defence of The Independent Group. Not many MPs fall into the Take 1 category. A few, mainly shadow cabinet, fall into Take 2. A majority fall into Take 3, even hard-core moderates and good friends of the defected MPs have doubled down on their support for the Labour Party and a dedication to right the wrongs from within. Moderates such as Alison Mcgovern, Tulip Siddiq (who said “I’m Labour to the core”), Peter Kyle, Neil Coyle, Dan Jarvis, Stephen Kinnock (saying “my dedication to my party is unconditional, my dedication to the leadership is conditional”) and John Mann all look like they are staying in the party. Hilary Benn hasn’t said much recently and Ben Bradshaw, although urging colleagues not to defect, says that the party is on the brink of being destroyed and that more MPs could break away. Owen Smith (who contested Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership back in 2016) said that he “might quit” back on the 7th of February, so he would probably be the bookies’ most likely to go next: but the general consensus is that there are more to come.

So is it just a group of disgruntled MPs or a future political party?

The Independent Group have put an emphasis on the fact that they desire to grow into a political party, saying how they want to be more than a group MPs in a committee room. They have already received thousands of small donations. However, the future for them is uncertain. The average majority for the group is 16,114 which is safe but contestable, especially if they are dropping their old party label, which can have a massive effect in places like Liverpool and Streatham.

Moreover, as shown earlier, a few of them are in leave-supporting areas and some have very slim majorities – such as Soubry and Smith. However, they seem to be doing well on the diversity front. Two-thirds of their MPs so far are women, which is the largest ever for any parliamentary party (discounting the Greens which naturally, with 1 MP, have 100% women). They have a decent mix (for their modest size) of minority representation in Berger and Umunna.

What is impressive though is their geographical diversity. Although they have no MPs from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, they do have commendable English diversity. From Liverpool, to Manchester, to Sheffield, to Nottingham to Cambridgeshire, to North London, to South London all the way down to Devon. English geographical diversity is not the only (usually overlooked) asset this group has: it also has a good diversity of opinion.

The main difference between the ex-Labour and ex-Conservative MPs are their varying views concerning Blair’s government compared to the coalition government. The ex-Labour MPs see Blair’s economic model as ideal (more government spending on public services through taxation) whereas the ex-Conservative MPs see the coalition’s economic policies as sound (less spending on public services and less taxation). However, it is this kind of difference in opinion, yet similar worldview, that they hope will form their party’s manifesto in the future. They seem to align on issues that they see as common sense: social policy such as civil rights, LGBT rights (with the historical exception of Shuker), feminism and multiculturalism but they disagree on issues that they see as less-contentious, such as economics, and therefore seem to have this smiley-harmony that no other group in the Commons possesses (other than maybe the Lib Dems who, like The Independent Group, have an advantage on the unity-front due to their modest size).

 

The Independent Group are definitely an interesting project and could provide the political shakeup that this Brexit stalemate needs. Don’t discount the power that small parties with 10 or more MPs can have in toppling or supporting governments. There have already been rumours about The Independent Group offering the Conservatives a majority through a confidence and supply agreement in exchange for a People’s Vote. These 11 MPs, along with the 11 Lib Dem MPs, could have a disproportionately large impact on the outcome of Brexit.

Wollaston has described them as a “third way” which is a phrase that has been used to describe Blair’s centrist agenda, although Umunna has made clear that they are “not the old tunes of the past” and he even rejected Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” as he sees it as an out of date prescription. Heidi Allen summed up their movement best. She puts forward a vision for a party of confidence, collaboration and expert analysis with an emphasis on care, compassion and fairness. She says she wants it to be a party of the best minds, biggest hearts and made up of effective communicators.

There has been speculation about who would lead this party but Umunna showed the radical nature of this group when, in his Channel 4 interview, he said that they don’t want the “soap opera” and “hierarchy” of the normal political parties, although acknowledging that “you need a leadership team” and that he wants to “play the biggest role possible”. This project is very risky and in the current political climate, it could either prosper massively or flounder awfully. With Brexit hurtling towards us, if it is to go ahead, with or without a People’s Vote, then it is hard to see what the future of this party would be; if we leave anyway then they become pointless and if we remain then surely they become unnecessary – that is, at least, if they fail to reach out and become a broader political movement.

Overall, this is a highly ambitious political project and despite one’s political views one can acknowledge that it takes bravery to start said project at such a crucial time, especially for people that have been such long-standing members to their previous parties- and in some cases even governments. These MPs have most likely thrown their careers under the bus (mainly due to how our current electoral system works) because they have seen the potential to change the country for the better in a way that the two main parties have neglected for decades. The odds are stacked against them, but as Heidi Allen said; “We might fail, but isn’t the prize worth fighting for?”

Legal status of Newly formed Independent Group means they can flout electoral law

The Independent Group, formed out of a Labour Party split earlier today that led to 7 MPs resigning the Whip, is officially listed as a Private Company and not a political party, it has been found.

The Independent Group is not a UK listed Political Party, nor is it officially listed as a Political Party, and it was found today, hours after the group’s launch, that the website for the Independent Group is based in a Panamanian domain.

Panama is a well-known “tax haven” for private companies who wish to avoid being taxed by the higher tax rates of Western Countries. Private organisations will often set up companies or domains in the nation in an effort to benefit from the more lax policies and laws that the Panamanian government enforces.

It was also found that the Independent Group’s funding is being managed by a subsidiary Company that has a listing within the United Kingdom, called Gemini A Ltd. Gemini A’s sole registered officer, who owns an over 75% stake in the company and full directorial rights over the company, including its finances, is one of the 7 rebel MPs, Gavin Shuker.

Current electoral law requires all Political Parties to provide the full details and the names of all financial backers and donors for public consumption. Private Companies are not required to provide details of their financial backers and theoretically are not required to publish any information on donations they receive.

The Independent Group are not an official Political Party, as all 7 of the MPs who resigned the whip has announced they will remain as Independents, a term used for MPs who have no alignment with a Political Party.

While it is not unheard of for MPs to resign from their political parties to form new parties due to ideological differences, no group  of MPs this large have resigned expressly to reside as Independent MPs with policies reminiscent of those of New Labour in the late 1990s. This means that any donations to the group will actually be donations to The Independent Group as a company, and then subsequently funding into Gemini A Ltd, meaning there is no requirement to provide details on the size or nature of funds going into the Independent Group under electoral law. New Labour had similar issues with transparency when it came to corporate political party funding, after it was only found that Bernie Ecclestone, the CEO of Formula 1, had donated £1 million to New Labour during their election campaign after New Labour declared Formula 1 exempt from their campaign manifesto promise to ban tobacco product advertising, sparking media fury. Now that a new enclave of Labour politicians with very similar ideologies of big business support, service privatisation, and free-market renewal fully refuse to disclose their donations being memories reminiscent of new funding scandals in waiting.