Independent group has ‘no mandate and no oversight - and nothing new’, says MP

In his latest column, East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire sets his sights on the newly-formed Independent Party.

He said: “So, eight MPs have resigned from the Labour Party and are now sitting in the Commons as the Independent Party.

“They have been joined by three former Tories, all of whom are remainers.

“It seems the Labour eight had rightly objected to anti-Semitism in the party, the security risk should Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister and Labour’s lukewarm attitude to a second referendum; a policy now changed.

“The Tory defectors were frustrated by Brexit but also turned their guns on Theresa May and Conservative policy which until then they had all supported.

“Both factions declare themselves as non-tribal and EU centred. So, will they, together, find the Promised Land?

“At the moment the Independent Group of MPs are not a political party, more a private company which means they avoid electoral oversight.

“They do not have any members but they take donations.

“They also have no mandate and refuse to submit themselves in by-elections, which reflects a very different tradition of thinking about the relationship between citizens and politicians.

“When they talk about policy they mostly advocate the status quo: maintaining privatisation, slashing taxes for the rich, opening the economy up to international finance to name but a few.

“In effect this is the same bunch of people, with the same ideas, just in a new grouping.

“Fans, of course, believe this is the start of something new, that they represent a progressive alternative to two-party politics. Really? Or is it just a holding pen for people who all hate Brexit or their leader. So what happens if Brexit is delivered what will the ‘three amigos’ do then?

“Or if Labour picks a moderate leader and the Labour lot wish to return to their true family as the SDP party did before them.

“Lets suppose they do go on to form a party and field candidates in a general election.

“Their first obstacle will be competing with the Liberal Democrats for the same niche market.

“Second, they will need to look at history and most specifically to the reverse image of themselves, UKIP, which at one time represented a serious challenge to Britain’s traditional party system.

“UKIP got many votes across the country but it did not return a single MP. Why?

“Because Britain’s first-past-the-post system means no small party can afford to have its votes scattered, it needs zones of strength.

“And for remainers there were only 95 constituencies out of 650 where more than 60% voted to remain.

“Of course, by the next election not everyone will be voting on the basis of Brexit either.

“Polls similarly show that the majority of voters are not interested in extending economic and social liberalism, they want to get tough on law and order, restrict immigration, do more to regulate big business, curb welfare and leave the EU and all of these policies are already covered between the two mainstream parties.

“New parties, wrote the American historian Richard Hofstader, are a bit like bees: once they have stung politics, they die. Only time will tell.”