Umunna urges voters to join movement for ‘different kind of politics’

By Ryan Wilkinson, Press Association

Chuka Umunna has called on voters to join breakaway Labour and Tory MPs in building a new “movement” that represents modern Britain.

In a sign that The Independent Group (TIG) will form a fully-fledged parliamentary party, the former Labour MP called for the public to “join us, and help us forge a new, different kind of politics for Britain’s future”.

Mr Umunna, who represents Streatham in south London, is one of eight ex-Labour MPs who have joined forces with three former Tories to form a new group in the Commons.

TIG does not have a leader or a detailed policy platform, however an Opinium poll for The Observer has put the group’s support at 6% – a point ahead of the Lib Dems.

Meanwhile it has emerged that Sir David Garrard, once one of Labour’s biggest donors, is supporting the new group.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Umunna said the current political system is not working and the established parties are “broken”.

The former Labour frontbencher said the two main parties had become “dominated by extremes”, citing factional infighting in his old party and the influence of hardline Brexiteers in the Tories.

“This week we have come together in the national interest, to say ‘enough is enough’. We have each put everything on the line to give something new a try. Believe me, it wasn’t an easy decision for any of us,” Mr Umunna said.

Chuka Umunna alongside the other 10 MPs who make up the new Independent Group (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“We don’t yet know the destination where the path we’ve taken will lead us. But what me and my Independent Group colleagues are absolutely clear about is that we cannot and must not re-create the old parties with their tribalism and incompetence.

“As we embark on this new chapter, most importantly we want you to help us build a new movement, and we’re keen to hear from you. Join us, and help us forge a new, different kind of politics for Britain’s future.”

TIG’s MPs all campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, while Mr Ummuna has been a prominent supporter of a so-called People’s Vote.

The former shadow business secretary and Labour leadership contender has been described the “obvious” candidate to lead TIG in the Commons, where the 11-strong group equals the Lib Dems in size and outnumbers the DUP by one.

There has been continued speculation that more Labour and Tory MPs will quit and potentially join the new group in the coming days and weeks as Brexit comes to a head.

The departures already mark the biggest parliamentary schism since the formation of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s.

However, many of TIG’s MPs will face a huge challenge if they want to hold on to their seats in a future election.

Tory breakaway Anna Soubry saw Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and several members of his shadow cabinet stage a rally in her Broxtowe constituency on Saturday.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said MPs who left Labour had “betrayed” their seats and will be defeated if elections are held.

Fighting for seats in a general election will require significant funding, although TIG has already attracted support from major donors who have abandoned the main parties in recent months.

Mr Umunna told The Times on Saturday that the group had already raised “tens of thousands of pounds from several thousand small donors”.

And on Sunday Sir David told The Observer: “I’ve been asked whether I will financially support the new group. I have already done so.”

The property tycoon, who donated around £1.5 million to Labour over a period of 15 years, left the party in protest at the leadership’s handling of the anti-Semitism row.

Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins, who previously donated to the Tories and then the Lib Dems, indicated to The Times on Saturday that he could also give TIG financial backing.

“I believe that any money I put in to the Independent Group will be money well spent because I think Theresa May is destroying the economy,” he said.

“This is about our children and grandchildren and the future of this country.”