February 18 was a big day for the “Maleficent Seven” Labour MPs who quit to form their own “Independent Group” in Parliament – and now they are facing demands for by-elections in their constituencies.
Local Labour members who helped Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey say they were elected into Parliament on a Labour manifesto but the people of those constituencies no longer have representatives who support that manifesto. They say voters are entitled to choose whether they want to keep the MPs they have, or elect someone who means it when they say they support Labour ideals.
All in all, it was hardly an auspicious start for the group, whose members intended to use their split from Labour to highlight alleged faults in the party they were leaving.
We very soon had ample evidence that the schism was hardly prompted by recent events – the group’s website was registered in 2015… in a tax haven abroad.
The headquarters of this Brexit-opposing organisation is above a Wetherspoons pub – an organisation that supports Brexit – called, appropriately, The Unicorn.
And it turns out that this political organisation is nothing of the sort – it is in fact a company called Gemini A Ltd. This allows it to take advantage of a legal loophole that means Gemini A Ltd does not have to declare the identity of its financial backers. We don’t know who is funding these MPs.
Within hours of the new group being announced, Ms Smith had plunged it into a racism row with ill-judged remarks on the BBC’s Politics Live.
And now all seven are facing challenges to justify their claims on their Parliamentary seats.
See for yourself:
The 'Independent Group' doesn't exist.
You are sitting with Gemini A Ltd.
A private company incorporated and owned by Gavin Shuker MP. https://t.co/FDDfJ1D3L6
— Matt Black (@NoirMJ) February 18, 2019
If you want an example of UK electoral law loopholes: The Independent Group, which looks/swims/quacks a lot like a political party and is asking for donations, is actually a private company. So it isn't subject to electoral law rules requiring them to declare financial backers.
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) February 18, 2019
Finally some light humour… the Independent Group, whose MPs oppose Brexit, is based above a branch of Wetherspoons, which, erm, does not oppose Brexit.
And the name of their new odd couple neighbour?
— Dan Bloom (@danbloom1) February 18, 2019
If the Umunna crew had any honour they would resign and fight by-elections like Dick Taverne. They wouldn't get 10,000 votes between the whole seven of them.
— Craig Murray (@CraigMurrayOrg) February 18, 2019
Statement from Wavertree CLP pic.twitter.com/bAAJQtNf3W
— Wavertree CLP (@WavertreeCLP) February 18, 2019
(For those who have trouble reading images, the tweet from Wavertree CLP says: “We are extremely disappointed that Luciana Berger has made the decision to resign from the Labour Party. 35,000 people in Wavertree voted for the Labour Manifesto in 2017, yet they are no longer represented by a Labour MP. We call on Luciana Berger to immediately resign the seat, to give the people of Wavertree the opportunity to decide who represents them in Parliament.”)
Any MP who won their electoral mandate under the banner of a particular party should stand down as an MP and run again as an independent if they leave that party.
— Ed Poole (@edwardpoole1975) February 18, 2019
"The honourable thing for them to do now is to stand down and fight by-elections back in their constituencies."
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell says seven MPs who resigned from the Labour party should seek re-election. pic.twitter.com/JuFEZMSEix
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) February 18, 2019
The MPs who have been calling for a second referendum because they want more democracy now refusing to hold by-elections to let their constituents decide who represents them. https://t.co/qHCQh98Qvb
— anita K (@a_nitak) February 18, 2019
It seems this new organisation is built on lies and broken promises. That is a poor platform from which to demand the trust of the people.
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