A total of 11 MPs have now left the Conservative and Labour parties to create a new party called The Independent Group.
Who are the rebels?
Former Labour MPs Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith and Ann Coffey announced they were leaving their party earlier this week.
They were joined by former Conservative MPs Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen on Wednesday 20 February.
— The Independent Group (@TheIndGroup) February 18, 2019
The Independent Group, however, is not a fully-fledged political party, and currently has no leader. It has been touted that former Labour MP Chuka Umunna could lead the new party.
The newly formed group takes the number of independent MPs in the House of Commons up to 19, narrowing Mrs May’s already small Commons majority even further.
Why have they left?
They quit in protest over the direction of both of their parties, saying that the values of the Labour and Conservative parties had changed.
Labour MPs said a “rise in antisemitism” in the party and a deviation from its roots as the main cause of their split from the party.
Chuka Umunna was particularly vocal about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and labelled him as “a Marxist” on a morning program show.
Although the members come from different parties, they are united in their opposition to the Government’s handling of Brexit.
‘You win in politics when you’re with a team, and in that team with shared values and principles and I believe mine are no longer welcome in the Conservative Party. I'm not leaving the Conservative Party – it's left us.’ @Anna_Soubry #ChangePolitics pic.twitter.com/KSFRZs8bDK
— The Independent Group (@TheIndGroup) February 21, 2019
Could more MPs join them?
Highly likely. The rebels have thrown down the gauntlet saying they and their values had not changed but their former parties had.
Both Conservatives and Labour MPs are showing more signs of grumbling discontent amongst their backbenches. If the status quo remains then more will undoubtedly follow.
Should they reach 36 MPs, they would overtake the SNP as parliament’s third largest grouping, which would bring with it speaking rights at PMQs, select committee chair posts, and public funds available to assist opposition parties with their work.
This morning, Labour MP Ian Austin quit the party, however, he has announced he would not be joining the Independent Group.
Labour Leader said in a Twitter statement the MPs who had left his party should resign and stand for by-elections.
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell also urged MP’s contemplating joining the new party to help “hold the family together”.
Only Labour can deliver the change the people of our country need and deserve. pic.twitter.com/jruxHoGzsn
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 21, 2019
The Independent Group will now gather and try to stop a no-deal Brexit, as well as creating a political party with clear aims and policies.