Today’s PMQs was a rather surreal occasion. Sitting high up on the opposition benches were the new Independent Group of MPs. But none of them tried to ask a question and both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May chose to ignore the issue. Instead, we were treated to May repeatedly raising the defection of a Labour councillor in Brighton.
I still think that this new group does more damage to Labour than the Tories. I doubt that many Tory voters will be attracted to a party led by the most ardent advocates of a second referendum. But the defection of these three Tory MPs risks creating an impression that the two main parties are as bad as each other. I suspect there’ll also be some Labour MPs who were considering defecting but won’t want to join a group that includes a former Tory minister.
The loss of these three Tory MPs, and particularly Anna Soubry, is a blow to the Tories. The party has to be able to contain people who have different views on Brexit and come back together afterwards if the Tories are to win the next election. Today’s news is another reminder that the next Tory leader needs to be someone capable of acting as a bridge between the two wings of the party.