In a parallel universe, the MPs who’ve left the Labour and Conservative parties this week would be joining the existing centrist party that shares their views on Brexit. But the Liberal Democrats haven’t had a look in, despite Vince Cable and before him Tim Farron claiming that they’d spoken to would-be defectors. Cable has just issued a statement saying that ‘there is clearly some very radical changes now afoot’ and offering to work with the new Independent Group. He said: ‘We will hold out the hand of friendship to the independent MPs with whom we already have a good working relationship.’
The Lib Dems have accepted that they have failed to provide a home for these despairing MPs. Privately, a number of their parliamentarians are very sympathetic to the creation of a new party, and do have very strong working relationships with members of the Independent Group. In fact, it is much easier to engage a Lib Dem in conversation about the need for a new party than it is to get them to talk about how their existing organisation is faring. Whether there will be individuals crossing the floor (or at least moving along a few benches on the opposition side of the House of Commons chamber) isn’t yet clear. But the party’s official line is clearly now that it is keen to merge into whatever comes out of the Independent Group, with Cable closing his statement by saying ‘in the short term we will be concentrating on securing a People’s Vote’. The long term is another matter.