It’s been quite a week in British politics. Well, sort of. More pertinently, it may end up being quite a week in British politics, but we don’t really know for sure yet. The formation of The Independent Group (the members of which are now, entertainingly, being referred to as TIGGERS) could prove to be the start of something monumental in British politics.
Aside from the Lib Dems’ coalition with the Conservatives, where they got screwed harder than an IKEA flatpack being constructed by Eddie Hall (…if you get the reference), the Labour and Conservative Parties have absolutely dominated British politics over the last few decades.
Now, however, there is potentially a real contender for the top spot.
We won’t know the real scale of the threat that TIG’s creation could pose for a while. This is because:
- We don’t know how many more MPs will join it;
- Because they are not a party yet, we don’t know what their policies will be;
- There are real concerns about how MPs from both sides of the political spectrum could agree on a unified strategy, even if they are largely moderate (i.e. not hard-line right or left-wing).
- There is already an example of this, where Anna Soubry (ex-Conservative) mentioned that she supported the austerity measures put in place by Cameron’s government, which Labour vehemently opposed.
So, for those of us who have been despairing at the state of our democracy for some time, this is by no means the solution we have been waiting for.
Or rather, not yet it isn’t.
Because TIG has been created as a grouping of MPs but not an actual party, they have given themselves a considerable amount of room to manoeuvre. There almost certainly won’t be a general election for at least a year, given that the last one was in 2017. Even if Theresa May resigns (which could happen if her Brexit strategy ultimately fails), the Conservative Party would most likely find a new leader to take her place – there does not need to be an election.
With this time frame, TIG can be methodical and thorough in creating its own manifesto, or overarching belief system. It has the time to go out and listen to what the people really want and what they would vote for, then create a party on those principles. The vagueness of ‘The Centre’ plays to their advantage – they can write policies that sit best with potential voters because so long as it is moderate, it falls in their remit.
Additionally, because they are not a party, they don’t have to adhere to a party leadership telling them to toe the party line – they can openly oppose their former parties, or any party, without fear of retribution. Using this, they can build up a considerable amount of goodwill for their group by holding our two defunct major parties to task and ramping up public opinion against them. One of the major failures of our system at the moment is that Labour provide absolutely no real opposition to the Conservatives. If The Independent Group can generate some momentum in the media by illustrating how useless the other parties are, they will start to become a real threat.
Additionally, while we won’t know how powerful TIG itself will be for a while yet, the fact that it exists at all has provided one immediate effect: moderate MPs within the Labour and the Conservatives now feel more empowered. A moderate MP can now demand more moderate policies from their parties and have an answer when their leaders ask, “Or what?”
Now, they can say, “Or we leave.”
Justine Greening, a highly-respected Conservative MP, has already threatened to do this over Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, as have a number of her cabinet ministers. The Times has reported today that Jeremy Corbyn could face a mutiny from ‘dozens’ of MPs and shadow cabinet ministers if he fails to back a second referendum.
While The Independent Group is in its infancy, it has already had a massive impact upon the fraught political landscape and I predict its influence to grow more and more.
Next week, May has promised an update on Brexit on Tuesday and time for amendments on Wednesday (which could mean that No-Deal is finally ruled out). With the new spectre of The Independent Group looming over her shoulder, it could turn out to be a rather tasty week.
I, for one, am rather looking forward to it.
As there will be plenty of ‘tasty’ action next week, I will be sending out a couple of Inbox Insights to Between the Lines’ subscribers.
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