This article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News on 26 January 2019.
Life in the Commons is never dull, but last week was even more eventful than most.
After months of speculation, seven Labour MPs announced that they were leaving the party and setting up, not a new party, but an entity they called The Independent Group. They were immediately dubbed the TIGgers and were swiftly joined by three Conservatives and another Labour Member, making them equal in size to the Liberal Democrats.
The Labour defectors’ principal ground for departure was their revulsion at what they contended was institutional antisemitism in their former party. The Conservatives had no such reason to leave; but what they did share with their new colleagues was a desire to try to ensure that Brexit should be as soft as possible. Ideally, I suspect all of them would like to stop Brexit altogether.
Formerly, the Conservative defectors had shown no violent objection to Brexit. Though clearly not Brexiteers, all three voted to trigger the article 50 process and all three stood on a Conservative election manifesto in 2017 that stated clearly that“we continue to believe that no deal is better than a bad deal for the UK”.
Whilst it is sad to see colleagues leaving the Party in such circumstances, it is probably for the best that they should depart if they are so manifestly unhappy with Party policy; and the same is true of the former Labour TIGgers.
However, it has to be asked why, in the circumstances, they are not simply resigning from the House of Commons altogether and seeking a new mandate from their electors. That is what the two former Conservatives, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, did when they defected to UKIP. Both were re-elected and it was widely felt that they had done the principled thing.
Though ours is not a proportional representation system, the truth is that most electors cast their votes on the basis of which party they wish to govern the country. I would guess that a lot of people in the defectors’ constituencies are feeling pretty aggrieved that, having voted Tory or Labour, they ended up with a TIGger.