Independent Group for Change vows to ‘carry on’ after poll reveals it has 0% support

Rob Merrick

The breakaway party launched as The Independent Group in a blaze of publicity six months ago now has “zero support”, a survey has found.

The ambitious bid to remake British politics – now called The Independent Group for Change, after two chaotic name changes and a bitter split – fails to register in a poll of general election voting intentions.

At 0 per cent, it is even below Ukip, which has been all but destroyed by multiple, scandal-hit leadership changes and the rise of the rival Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, yet manages 1 per cent.

There is pressure on the party’s five remaining MPs to throw in the towel after two of their former colleagues – Chuka Umunna and Sarah Wollaston – joined the Liberal Democrats.

But a defiant Anna Soubry, The Independent Group for Change’s leader, insisted it remained vital, as the Brexit crisis deepens, saying: “We will carry on.”

The poll, by BMG Research for The Independent found the Conservatives have a six-point leader over Labour, in line with other surveys showing a small bounce for Boris Johnson.

However, at 31 per cent – and with the Brexit Party on 12 per cent as a rival for anti-EU votes – Mr Johnson would be far from confident of winning if he calls a snap general election. The Liberal Democrats are on 19 per cent.

The “zero support” for The Independent Group for Change will revive memories of Paddy Ashdown’s comment that Liberal support was “an asterisk” when he took over in 1989.

In fact, its plight is far worse, because the Social and Liberal Democrats, as the party was then called, was actually standing at between 4 and 5 per cent in polls that year.

Ms Soubry’s party was rocked the embarrassment of being forced to change its name, just weeks after the painful split that saw Mr Umunna, then-leader Heidi Allen and four other MPs walk out in June.

Having been briefly called Change UK, it had to ditch the name under threat of legal action from the campaign organisation Change.org.

In recent weeks, it has been ignored in talks of a cross-party “Remain alliance” to thwart Brexit, and by Jeremy Corbyn when he sought backing to become a caretaker prime minister.

Nevertheless, Ms Soubry, a former Conservative MP, struck a defiant tone, telling The Independent: “We will carry on, we have fixed some of our problems that we had and are on a much firmer footing.

“We are recruiting members and we are the people, looking at the alternatives, who combine the Labour Social Democratic and One Nation Conservative traditions.”

Ms Soubry said her hopes for the party “may take longer than we hoped”, but insisted: “I don’t think I’m being over-optimistic. We have five MPs, but literally every vote counts now and we are now very strong, because the five are as one.”

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