Who Are the 11 U.K. Lawmakers in the Independent Group?
(Bloomberg) -- The Independent Group in the U.K. Parliament is growing.
Four MPs – three Conservative and one Labour – have joined the seven lawmakers who resigned from Labour on Monday. As the group grows, so do the reasons for leaving. While the opposition party politicians quit in protest at its position on Brexit and allegations of antisemitism, the former Conservatives are primarily focused on Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of of the divorce from the European Union. They accuse the government of being “firmly in the grip” of the anti-EU European Research Group in the Tory party and the prime minister’s Democratic Unionist Party allies.
Here’s a quick rundown of who the 11 Independent Group members are.
Once touted as a future Labour leader, Umunna is MP for Streatham in south London and has long been a critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of hedging his bets on Brexit. Umunna favors a second referendum on leaving the EU.
“The established parties are simply not up to the challenge, they can’t be the change because they have become the problem,” he said Monday.
Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree since 2010, has been at the center of those alleging antisemitism against Corbyn and his supporters. A former director of Labour Friends of Israel, Berger has been subjected to antisemitic abuse and had to hire a bodyguard to accompany her to the party’s annual conference last year.
“I’m leaving a culture of bigotry, bullying and intimidation,” she said.
Gapes, who is MP for the Essex seat of Ilford South, is an outspoken critic of Corbyn’s foreign policy and has argued on Twitter with the Labour leader’s supporters. A liberal interventionist, he used to head Labour’s international section and said “Jeremy Corbyn and those around him are on the wrong side in so many international issues.”
Shuker, the MP for Luton South, to the northwest of London, has been one of the prime movers in the breakaway. He has been talking for months with colleagues about the best way to split and how to time it. He favored setting up an independent group and building a movement rather than trying to start a new party from scratch.
A former economy spokesman under previous Labour leader Ed Miliband, Leslie has made it clear in past months that he has lost patience with the labour leadership’s refusal to back a second referendum on Brexit.
The MP for Nottingham East said Labour has been “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left” and its equivocal position on Brexit is a “fundamental violation of Labour’s traditional values.”
Smith has become a hate figure for Corbyn’s online supporters, who have heaped abuse on the Penistone & Stocksbridge lawmaker since she questioned the leadership’s policy on renationalizing the water industry.
They have accused her of being in the pocket of industry lobbyists and threatened to deselect her from her seat. She made a point of spelling out her Labour heritage at Monday’s meeting.
“We don’t think that any of the major political parties are fit for power,” she said.
The lowest profile of the seven MPs at Monday’s announcement, Coffey has been MP for Stockport, in Greater Manchester, since 1992.
She was a junior Treasury minister in former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government and was one of those who proposed a motion of no-confidence in Corbyn in the aftermath of the EU referendum campaign. The leader was eventually re-elected in a ballot of party members and led Labour into the 2017 general election.
Joan Ryan, the eighth U.K. Labour MP to quit the party for the new grouping, has been the MP for Enfield North since 1997, and served as vice-chair of the party between 2007 and 2008.
In her resignation letter, released late Tuesday, Ryan accused Corbyn of “presiding over a culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred of Israel.”
Anna Soubry, an outspoken supporter of a second referendum on Brexit, was among the three Tory lawmakers to quit on Wednesday morning. Her opposition to Brexit has often made her a target for abuse, both online and on from protesters on the parliamentary estate, and, as she quit the Tory party, she wrote that “it’s time to realign British politics and get back to the centre moderate ground.”
The MP for Broxtowe since 2010, she was a minister in the defence and business departments under former Prime Minister David Cameron, before returning to the backbenches in 2016.
A member of the 2015 class of new lawmakers, Allen, the representative for South Cambridgeshire, left the Conservative Party on Wednesday.
She’s been vocal about warning over the dangers of a no-deal Brexit, and previously said that she would quit the party should Jacob Rees-Mogg ever become its leader. Allen also has a history of not towing the party line, and even used her maiden speech in Parliament to criticize then-Chancellor George Osborne’s tax-credit cuts.
A trained doctor, she has represented Totnes since 2010, and chairs both the Health and Liaison Committees in Parliament.
The third of the MPs to quit Wednesday, she’s long been regarded as an independent mind within the Conservative party, and has been particularly critical of its stance on Brexit. Another supporter of a second referendum, she said Wednesday that the party had abandoned attempts to modernize, and the “final straw” was the government’s handling of Brexit.
“I cannot support a No Deal Brexit and I wholly reject the PM's false binary choice between that grim option and her own deeply flawed Deal,” she said.
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