The Independent Group has already changed UK politics for the better – Ayesha Hazarika

The Independent Group MPs have stood up to bullies on both side of political divide – and helped those they left behind in the Conservative and Labour parties do the same.

I have to admit, I was more than a little sceptical when The Independent Group (TIG) launched in a blaze of media attention.

I have immense respect and empathy for Luciana Berger, and the anti-semitic abuse she faced turned my stomach, but if truth be told, I wasn’t so sure about the others, their long-term purpose and how much impact they could have.

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It’s true they have no vision, coherent policy platform or leader, but in a mere 11 days, they have already changed the political weather. This cannot be denied, even by their harshest critics.

Luciana Berger resigned from the Labour Party and joined The Independent Group of MPs
Luciana Berger resigned from the Labour Party and joined The Independent Group of MPs

First, they have given Remainers and those who support a softer Brexit or a People’s Vote a much-needed shot in the arm.

There is also no question their existence “encouraged” the somewhat lackadaisical leader of the opposition into finally backing a public vote.

As Mrs Merton (God rest her soul) might have said: “Jeremy love ... what was it about the threat of 20 Labour MPs buggering off that persuaded you to back a People’s Vote?”

And it’s not just Labour. TIG emboldened senior Remain Cabinet ministers who had previously played nice to stand up to the Prime Minister and threaten to resign over a no-deal scenario.

This resulted in a change of course which may see Article 50 extended if the Withdrawal Agreement is rejected by Parliament again later this month.

Second, TIG has made it much harder for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister. If they become a political party and decide to stand in heavy Remain areas, they could rob Labour of the precious seats they would need to form a government.

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Given how tight elections have been of late, every seat will count. Brexit is bigger than party loyalty – especially for many ardent Remain voters who feel Labour has taken them for granted and that their last-minute conversion to a public vote is too little, too late.

But the third reason for me is the most profound. TIG MPs have stood up to the bullies on their own sides in politics. And that is huge.

Politics has become the march of the mob – particularly online. It’s Brexit in the Tory party but in Labour, it’s a mindless loyalty test of whether you’re with or against the great leader.

The Labour leadership has sufficiently wised up to denounce threats of violence (thanks for that) but they cravenly ignore and send out a tacit thumbs up to their millions of online disciples to bully, harass, denigrate and intimidate anyone who has the temerity to dare to question Corbyn.

I admit, I was scared of the “pile-ons”. I dreaded them as did many other women in the Labour movement.

And they worked. They did, at times, have the desired chilling effect.

I would often think twice before I expressed a view – can I really be bothered to handle a ten-hour monstering on Twitter led by Corbyn’s cheerleaders? “Where’s the evidence?” I hear them cry. Erm, #JC4PM is a bit of a giveaway.

But not any more. As we watched Luciana Berger face them down, nine months pregnant, with guts and grace, suddenly their power ebbed away. We’re not scared of them any more.

Their moronic bullying won’t silence us and only harms the leader they worship.

And for that alone, I thank TIG – as do many other women on the left.