The reaction to yesterday’s press conference in which seven Labour MPs announced that they have left the party and will sit as an independent bloc (for now) has been extraordinary. It seems that a lot of people who have found themselves politically homeless over the last few years discovered in the Magnificent Seven a new hope. The Independent Group’s Twitter account has gained almost 80,000 followers in less than 24 hours; their website fell over yesterday morning due to excess traffic.
On the other side, the Corbynistas lost their minds. I expected them to be cool and treat the whole thing as a minor distraction; instead, they had a collective temper tantrum. I can understand the latter reaction: even if this is all there is, these seven and no more, this has put a major dent in Labour’s electability. The fact that former Labour MPs can now talk openly about the party’s problems with anti-semitism and Brexit vacillation will on its own be very damaging.
I don’t, however, think it will end with these seven. Even if no Tories jump over any time soon, I think the plan must be something like this: the seven from yesterday leave Labour and by doing so, prove that MPs are willing to leave and that there is a group that isn’t the Lib Dems for them to leave and go into. This sets up round two: another group of MPs still on the Labour whip tell Corbyn that unless he back a People’s Vote immediately and unreservedly, they will quit and join the Independent Group. Either they get what they want – win – or they leave, which then only ups the pressure on Corbyn further. The fact that this group would be leaving because Corbyn wants to see through Brexit will be good PR for the Independent Group.
I figure this threat will be delivered and Corbyn won’t blink. Then, we’ll have another group of Labour MPs, perhaps a much bigger group, split off. If that happens, I think that will dent Corbyn’s hopes of ever being prime minister to the point of no return. What happens with Brexit is still as unknown as ever.