What is the Independent Group's exclusive club actually for?

Written by Mandy Rhodes on 26 February 2019 in Comment

The Independent Group is a group of defected politicians from different parties with no leader, no policies and no real raison d’etre, writes Mandy Rhodes

Mandy Rhodes - Holyrood

In a world of broken politics, the fact that an apparently unprincipled ex Militant Tendency leader expelled from the Labour Party over 30 years ago was readmitted the same week as seven others decided to leave on matters of various principle, was poorly timed but may also have proved a point.

With members of the newly formed Independent Group citing embarrassment and anti-Semitism among their reasons for leaving a Corbyn-led Labour party only for Derek Hatton, a man that proceeds through life with a bare-faced cheek, to be suspended 48 hours later for posting potentially anti-Semitic statements on social media, seemed to bring us full circle.

But then Angela Smith, one of TIG’s founding members, went one step further when she found herself facing accusations of racism within hours of referencing institutional racism within the Labour party as a reason for her departure.

Smith went on live TV to describe black and minority ethnic people as having a "funny tinge". The last bit of a sentence coming tumbling out her mouth, apparently by accident due to fatigue.

Smith later apologised for ‘misspeaking’ and avoided the humiliation of having to prematurely quit The Independent Group to sit as an independent which might have only added to the notion of politics being broke.

The Independent Group was quickly joined by three Conservative MPs who seemed very jolly to stand in solidarity with members from the opposition with whom they now felt some unity. Despite obvious differences over small ideological things like austerity.

Apart from anything, the few MPs in this new The Independent Group who you could at least identify without having to Google, were also all MPs who I had certainly previously asked the question ‘why are they in this [whichever it was] party?’

Heidi Allan even admitted that she had never been interested in politics until she joined the Tory Party. Well now she really gets the chance to finesse that skill.

And so, we have a group of defected politicians from different parties with no leader, no policies and no real raison d’etre polling higher in opinion polls than the Lib Dems.

And if things couldn’t get even more bonkers, Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley who has now quit the party to sit as an independent, won’t sit in the House of Commons with The Independent Group who paradoxically sit behind the party of independence which they incidentally oppose.

Pro-Brexit Austin sits with the ‘real’ independent group of nine MPs which includes various ex Labour MPs who have quit or been suspended for reasons including; allegations of sexual harassment, homophobia, being a prisoner or for just hating Corbyn. They are joined by a Lib Dem who is pro Brexit and a Baroness who left the Ulster Unionists in protest over their alliance with the Tory Party.

But don’t be fooled that TIG will be a club that will just let anyone join. Heidi Allan sees no irony in dismissing suggestions that either Ivan Lewis or John Woodcock – former Labour MPs both accused of sexual misconduct – would be welcome because she doesn’t want it to become a home for “waifs and strays”.

But if TIG isn’t a home for the politically homeless, what is it?

Perhaps the clue lies in the BBC footage of the ‘not so secret seven’ arriving on stage to announce the initial breakaway group accompanied by a voice off camera, muttering: “Between this and Brexit, we’re actually f***ed.”

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