The Independent Group is a vehicle designed for flexibility
In March 1981 I was working at BBC News on the day of the famous Limehouse declaration which saw the launch of the SDP, the last big break away from the Labour Party. This was a massive development which until yesterday shaped our views of what a breakaway should look like.
What Chuka and the other six MPs did yesterday was so different to 1981 because they weren’t creating a new party. The group they’ve designed has one initial purpose and that was to be a vehicle for them to leave Labour and provide a means for others to follow from the Tories and other parties.
This meant that they did not have to have a policy platform and go through all the machinations that would have been involved in the creation of a new party. The group might well at some stage lead to that but politics is in such a flux at the moment that it was wise not to be too rigid in what they created.
This also helped with the required secrecy in the days leading up to yesterday. There was knowledge that a number of Labour MPs and some Tory ones weren’t comfortable with where the two old parties are at the moment but there was little idea what would be announced yesterday morning. This made it harder for continuity Labour to attack them and the media focus has been on the departure alone.
Having a new party would have given Labour something specific to attack and undermine from day one. Instead the focus has been on the state of Corbyn’s Labour.
The idea that has been floated many times of a grand body of rebels from the Conservatives and Labour joining with the Lib Dems and the Greens and so on might still happen but it needs to develop organically and will be very influenced by events.
So it is entirely feasible for those Conservatives who feel under pressure to join the Chuka group without taking on board a preordained policy platform.
My guess is that the group will want to go on making the headlines and that some Tory MPs will join quite soon each development getting more coverage.