Is this a split in the Labour party or something more? At today’s launch, Chuka Umunna was clear that the Independent Group want to attract MPs from parties other than Labour. Tory party sources admit that they ‘would not be surprised’ if some Tory MPs were to join this new group. Right now, the values of this group seem fairly—for want of a better word—Blairite. The addition of any Tory MPs would make this group more ideological heterodox; and show if it can carve out a distinctive intellectual position. Politically, it would also mean that it was not just Labour who are split. But given the way that the Tory electorate has become more Leave leaning since the referendum, I suspect that this new party will take more votes off Labour than the Tories even if some Tory MPs defect to it.
For the moment, though, this new group is a Labour splinter. Despite the polling mishaps of the last few years, Westminster will still be waiting to see what the polls say about this new bloc. If it appears to be connected to a fall in Labour support, then it’ll add weight to calls for the Labour leadership to back a second referendum or pay an electoral price. But if it seems to be eating into the Lib Dem vote more than anything else, the Labour leadership will think that they can continue to obfuscate on a second referendum without doing much damage to their chances at the next election.