Labour split: What on earth happens next?
The collapse of civilisation, I guess
Good afternoon. Seven MPs have publicly, vociferously quit the Labour party. Angry about Labour's Brexit stance and its approach to anti-Semitism, Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey held a press conference to declare their departure.
The list of grievances is longhand for steaming discontent with Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.
The validity of those concerns has, though, already been called into question. During the press conference announcing the birth of the Independent Group, the splitters labelled the current Labour party "racist."
Not three hours after that declaration, Angela Smith used an appearance on the BBC's Politics Live to refer to BAME people as being a "funny tinge."
However this is not a discussion of the principles, or lack thereof, of the Independent Group, or their appetite for career advancement. It is an assessment of what could possibly happen next which, in these Brexity and turbulent times, is difficult. Here goes.
More Labour MPs revolt
This week was meant to be a parliamentary recess, providing MPs with a bit of a breather before they career down the precipice toward a no deal Brexit with the only handbrake available Theresa May's draft deal. That break was cancelled but still the parliamentary agenda is quite barren.
It's a good week to make this kind of announcement, basically.
Well, the announcement at the start of the week and drip feed through a string of other MPs as it goes on. How the Labour leadership respond to the rebellion is crucial here. Vitriol, anger and continued threats of deselection will likely instigate a host of other resignations. Compassion and empathy, on the other hand, and they might stay.
Given the tactical ineptitude of Corbyn's Labour, which languishes behind a government led by the worst prime minister since Jim Callaghan, that's still an option.
The key member of the shadow cabinet to watch on this front is deputy leader Tom Watson. A bellwether for the right of the Labour party. In his statement responding to the Independent Group split he said: "I love this party. But sometimes I no longer recognise it."
The naming of the gang of seven as "the Independent Group" is sufficiently nebulous to leave open the option of Tory rebels joining their cause. And by Tory rebels I basically mean Anna Soubry, who frequently shares a stage with Umunna at Peope's Vote rallies and denounces the government's pursuit of Brexit. Umunna called for MPs to leave their "parties" at the press conference.
While the Conservative party is groaning similar pained cries as the UK exit from the EU draws ever closer, its broad coalition is not quite at the same stress level as Labour. The Independent Group's departure is multifaceted and encompasses its former party's handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism as well as foreign and economic policy.
Tory differences and a potential resulting civil war largely come down to Brexit.
In addition, this splintering of political parties is currently limited to and self-contained within the Labour party. It would be a massive move to open the door to the storm raging well outside the Tory tent at this point. For Anna Soubry, or similar, to make that move, would be a brutal attack on the prime minister and Conservative government, embroiling them in a crisis that isn't really theirs.
The Lib Dems rise from the ashes
Tim Farron has said he is "looking forward to working" with the Independent Group. If Chuka's gang resolve to fight by-elections, which they are currently insisting they won't, they will need the structure and campaign machinery developed for decades by a mainstream party to have any chance of success.
Given the Remain/second referendum stance of all of the group, the Lib Dems seem a natural fit. Time to come out of the hinterland, Vince.