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05 June 2019
Change UK loses more than half its MPs in split after EU election humiliation

TIG Change UK - PA

Change UK loses more than half its MPs in split after EU election humiliation

Fledgling party Change UK has lost six of its MPs after a series of rows led to a dramatic split less than four months after it was set up.

The anti-Brexit movement was left bitterly divided after it failed to win a single seat at the European Parliament elections last month.

Ex-Labour MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Gavin Shuker all quit the party following a make-or-break meeting, as did former Tories Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen, who had been the party's interim leader.

It is understood that they will now sit in Parliament as an independent group, although there is speculation that some could join the Lib Dems.

Former Tory minister Anna Soubry is now the party's leader, while ex-Labour MPs Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Joan Ryan have also decided to remain in the party.

Soubry said: "I'm deeply disappointed that at such a crucial time in British politics our former colleagues have made this decision.

"Now is not the time to walk away, but instead to roll up our sleeves and stand up for the sensible mainstream centre ground which is unrepresented in British politics today."

She added: “Going forward, the Change UK MPs are as determined to fix Britain’s broken politics as we were when we left our former parties."

In a statement, Allen said: "We believe that our priority now must be to provide collegiate leadership to bring people together in the national interest.

"We know the landscape will continue to shift within the political environment and have concluded that by returning to sit as independents, we will be best placed to work cross-party and respond flexibly."

The party was formed as The Independent Group in February after the 11 centrist MPs quit their parties.

But despite initial hopes that other MPs would defect to them, the party's progress has stalled and there have been public spats between key figures as their poll ratings have plummeted.

In the wake of the disastrous European elections, when the party failed to elect a single MEP, Soubry criticised Allen's "bizarre" idea that people should vote tactically for the Lib Dems in some parts of the UK.

That came after  Allen admitted she had considered quitting when her plan to maximise the pro-Remain vote in the European elections was condemned internally.

On Allen's suggestion that Change UK could form an alliance with the Lib Dems in the future, former Tory minister Soubry said: "These things may well emerge but for goodness sake, this is a long way down the line.

"You have got to have your own policies first of all before you can even go into any form of negotiations with any other party to do pacts."

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