A quick recap first: eight Labour and three Conservative MPs left their respective parties to form what became known as Change UK.
After the European Parliament elections, six of those left Change UK. One of them – Chuka Umunna – joined the Liberal Democrats and four of the other five departees have now teamed up with former Labour MP John Woodcock to form The Independents. (The fifth, Sarah Wollaston, has not joined the new group, remaining an independent rather than becoming an Independent, as it were.)
The Independents have described as a co-operative, with plans it appears to operate more as the sort of umbrella grouping rather than a formal party that I originally speculated might be the best route for Change UK:
We are not a party, but a co-operative of independents working together.
One of this new grouping is Heidi Allen, who has also launched a new cross-party initiative, Unite to Remain:
We are bringing together great MPs, Remain party machinery, the latest polling, data insights and donations in the biggest drive yet to equalise the ability of Remain parties, and free-thinking Independent MPs to break through the first past the post electoral system. We will be the facilitator – providing resources and space for new discussions between MPs, encouraging them to agree to work together for the greater goal.
Or, as I understand it, this initiative will try to broker electoral deals between Remain parties to maximise their impact under first past the post. We’ve seen some signs of this previously, particularly between the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. A mix of general election and local election arrangements have been made between these two parties in various places including both Vince Cable and Layla Moran’s constituencies as well as in Richmond Park.
Things are going a step further in the Brecon and Radnorshire Parliamentary by-election with Plaid joining the Greens in backing the Liberal Democrats, as are Renew. That’s great news for Jane Dodds.
The scope for such deals is much reduced in Scotland given the additional dividing line there over independence, one which splits the Remain camp and both Ed Davey and Jo Swinson have very cool on the idea of pacts with the SNP.
Elsewhere, however, Ed Davey has made some positive noises, especially for Boris Johnson’s constituency, but also expressed significant scepticism about how many other seats such pacts might be practical and useful for. Jo Swinson, by contrast, has been more positive about the potential for cross-party arrangements, both more generally and also to defeat Brexit. That makes this issue one of the key choices in the leadership contest.