Departure of eight Labour MPs and three Conservative MPs poses serious potential challenge to Labour party leadership in the UK

At a critical point in British politics because of the challenges and confusion surrounding Brexit eight Labour politicians have quit the Labour Party and decided to sit as independents with the intention of creating a new centrist party .They have now been joined by three centrist leaning Tory modernizer MPs  who have severed their Conservative party affiliation to sit as independent MPs with the former Labour MPs. This makes for a total caucus of 11 MPs and there may well be more to join them.

The gang of four who quit the Labour Party in 1981 David Owen, Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers  later formed a new Social Democratic Party that eventually was absorbed by the Liberal Democrats . They were   all prominent front benchers .

This is not so of the current group who while larger in number are mostly much less prominent. The departure of prominent Labour politicians in 1981 did some  lasting damage to the Labour party in the 1980s but ultimately did not work to the advantage of the departing politicians. Instead it benefited the Tories who were able to prolong their government under Margaret Thatcher and then John Major who succeeded her.  Labour did not return to government until Tony Blair won power in 1994.It was a long 15 years out of power for Labour. It will be worth watching carefully to see if something similar might happen again because of vote splitting benefiting the Conservatives more than Labour in marginal Labour seats. The other more unlikely possibility is that a new centrist party might emerge and capture enough seats in the next election to be a serious force in British politics. Unlikely but not impossible.

To avoid such  outcomes the Labour party leadership and rank and file will have to listen carefully to all sides in the debate that will now ensue and keep lines of communication open.

Party standings in UK parliament

Conservatives          314

Labour                       247

Lib Dems                     11

Independent group    11

DUP                                10

Independent.                  8

Sinn Fein                         7

Plaid Cymru.                   4

Green.                               1

Speaker.                            1

vacant.                              1

Total.                             615




About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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