Are Labour leavers heroes or charlatans?

The seven former Labour MPs who have left the Party to establish The Independent Group are being widely lionised for their political courage and their integrity, but does that claim to the moral high ground really stand scrutiny?

For over two years they have supported a Party whose Leader sups with terrorists from the Middle East and Northern Ireland, who has allowed a culture of antisemitism to flourish in his Party, and whose economic and foreign policies would destroy our economy and our standing on the world stage. They were happy to stand for election on Jeremy Corbyn’s Manifesto. Why leave now?

One of the strongest themes running through the policy objectives of the new Group is their desire to thwart the democratic wishes of the 52% of voters who backed Brexit in the referendum by calling a second referendum in the hope that the decision would be reversed.

The grim reality for the individuals concerned is that most, if not all, of them risk deselection by local Momentum supporters.

Such self-preserving action, and these principles are hardly the kind that will appeal to traditional Labour voters who are worried about their jobs, their standards of living, the quality of the local schools and hospitals, rising levels of perceived crime, particularly violent crime; who feel overlooked and sneered at by the political elite; and who are seriously disgruntled with the state of British politics and its failure to deliver a clean Brexit.

Yes, the new Group may have an appeal to the metropolitan chattering classes and they may, therefore, be able to find a niche in the future of British politics, but it seems unlikely there is any prospect of them denying Labour the role of principal party of opposition anytime soon. Yet, the new Group could change the nature of our politics by creating a new bloc that could prove kingmaker if coalition government becomes a regular feature of the United Kingdom’s electoral landscape.

Take a look at Italy, for decades one of Europe’s most politically dysfunctional countries, and ask whether that is a good, or a poor outcome for our democracy as a whole. The new Independent Group in that light, in the light of their failure to leave Labour before now over antisemitism, in their determination to thwart the will of the people over Brexit, and in the light of having not much prospect of any future within the Labour Party, suggests that rather than acting with heroic intentions they have sacrificed their integrity on the altar of personal advancement.