Political

Chuka Umunna applies to join the Liberal Democrats

Former Labour MP and party leadership candidate Chuka Umunna has applied to join the Liberal Democrats:

Sir Vince Cable, the party’s outgoing leader, hailed him as a “formidable, serious political figure” who would be a positive addition. Mr Umunna, who once said he could never forgive the Lib Dems for “enabling Tory austerity”, was braced for the brickbats, however.

“I’ve got a pretty thick skin,” he said when asked if he was looking forward to the reaction to news of his latest berth. “You don’t leave all of the political security of what are the two main parties if you’re out for self-advancement. And I’m not sure what more I could do to prove that I’m not, not a careerist.” [The Times]

Following the local and European election triumphs, the fact that this time an MP has chosen to switch to the Liberal Democrats is a welcome reinforcement of the party’s recovery. He’s the first MP to switch* to the Liberal Democrats since Brian Sedgemore in 2005.

Chuka Umunna’s switch is another welcome boost for the Liberal Democrats and what I’ve heard from members in the area over the last few days has been on the spectrum from cautiously welcoming to optimistic about the boost this will give the party.

Back in his Labour days he and the Liberal Democrats had many a difference, but he’s more recently been a key player in cross-party cooperation to battle Brexit and talked of news ways to do politics. The way in which Jeremy Corbyn fans have attacked Chuka Umunna has also helped Lib Dems warm to him.

His move has been welcomed by Helen Thompson, the Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in Streatham:

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Chuka and I have worked together effectively for many months, campaigning for a People’s Vote and to Stop Brexit.

I know that he will be a great asset to our party not just on Brexit, but in fighting for the liberal and social democratic values that we share.

He joins alongside 20,000 people across the country just this month, demonstrating clearly that the Liberal Democrats are the biggest, clearest and most formidable force in the liberal centre-ground of British politics today.

Alex Wilcock, a former key member of the Federal Policy Committee, recently composed a persuasive Twitter thread about how best to react to such news: “My instinct is to welcome everyone in – even someone I’m not immediately comfortable with (bear in mind LDs are not yet at the tipping point to attract the merely ambitious).”

Alex Wilcock on welcoming new MPs into the Liberal Democrats

* Rule 2(b) applies, obviously.

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3 responses to “Chuka Umunna applies to join the Liberal Democrats”

  1. for once I entirely agree with Alex, but he misses one point of observation, that when young people become politically aware the constant message they receive is that there are only two parties worth bothering with, and so, many will make a choice of who to join(if any) on that basis.
    We have always been at a clear disadvantage, having few friends in the media, but once people with a conscience realise that getting involved in politics is more than just choosing a football team and being comfortably tribal, then they do look beyond the two old parties.
    Now we should be demanding that our media coverage reflects the latest votes, as they always used to say that the ‘balance’ of coverage was based upon.. – When the ‘I’ starts mentioning the Liberal Democrats every day (and preferably before page 10) then I will know we are succeeding. Until then any of the TIGs is most welcome.

  2. Give any incomers a chance to show their credentials. Since the SDP and Liberal Party merged to form the Liberal Democrats we have several former SDP members still in senior posts within the party ie Dick Newby, our leader in House of Lords. In my local area Cllrs and members who have come from outside. Chuka will be the first of many, let us see by experience how he settles in 🙂

  3. I’ve always seen Chuka as a liberal (with a small ‘l’), as I \also view some other members of Labour and the tories. I won’t say their names, to spare them possible abuse from their own party colleagues. But if they choose to leave and join us, then (a) welcome, and (b) no crowing (condescending remarks such as ‘at last you’ve seen the light’). It takes courage to leave a party you’ve espoused all your life and it is difficult to persuade oneself take a possibly irrevocable step and losing long-established friendships. But given enough provocation, it has to be done and one takes a deep breath and does it. I went through a similar transformation when I abandoned Christianity and embraced humanism (on the way home from singing in the church choir, so it was pretty much uppermost in my mind). I know how much Chuka has wrestled with his political conscience before making a move which he feels he has to make. It wasn’t easy. Once he’s been interviewed and we’re sure his application is genuine, then after a decent pause to adjust and get to know people and how our party works (it doesn’t work in the same way as Labour, I can guarantee!) then the way is open for him to carve out a path for himself as a bona fide Lib Dem MP.

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