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).”
* Rule 2(b) applies, obviously.