Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

How the Independent Group can survive – and thrive

And then there were eleven. The Independent Group has been enlarged today by the defection of moderate Tories Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen, who gave as their reason the Brexification of the Conservative Party. ConservativeHome’s executive editor Mark Wallace and others might dispute many of the charges, but the splitters describe a mood in the Tory Party that many will recognise, and that mood was set by the unchecked belligerence of Brexit ultras.

TIG is no longer solely about Labour anti-Semitism but a lurch from the post-1997 centre ground by both main parties. The latest YouGov poll puts TIG in third place on 14 per cent. Are the Tiggers bringing about a fundamental realignment of British politics or are voters just saying ‘ta-ta for now’ until Labour and the Tories get their act together? It’s hard to say but there is certainly an opportunity for even a small party or parliamentary bloc to reshape politics in limited but important ways.

The model is not the SDP but Australia’s DLP — the Democratic Labor party. In 1955, Robert Menzies is six years into his second premiership and his centre-right liberal-country coalition is the natural home of Australia’s expanding middle class. Across the floor in the Australian Labor party (ALP), fortune has been less favourable. Its leader Doc Evatt was a principled man (aside, that is, from his then-commonplace support for the White Australia policy) but circumstances — and his temper — were against him. Communist infiltration of trade unions, which had begun over a decade earlier, dogged his leadership as did the claims of Soviet defector Vladimir Petrov that communists had penetrated Evatt’s office. Evatt blamed his unexpected loss of the 1954 election on the row and turned on the mostly Catholic anti-communist faction within the ALP.

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