As someone who stood as an Independent candidate in an election, I have mixed feelings about a group of politicians who until yesterday were members of one party, claiming to be Independent MPs and then forming a group that they are part of without any indication that they approached other Independent MPs or Councillors to see if there was common ground between them. By its very definition an Independent representative is not bound by a party or a group of other representatives. Their view should now be wholly and completely what is best for their constituents and no longer having a party constitution or set of rules to redirect their judgement. In many senses given that one of the critical aspects of their breakaway was Brexit, it would have been good to have seen some of these MPs meeting with Caroline Lucas, with members of the SNP and perhaps even Sinn Fein to express that their change was to enable them to be more flexible when it comes to working with other MPs. Even allowing for the difference between their views and Frank Field who is strongly supportive of Brexit, they should also have some common ground with him. However for each of them to focus exclusively on their 6 ex-colleagues from the Labour Party sends out a very different message. Although they left the party less than 24 hours ago, and so there are lots of opportunities to do much more radical things, to give the impression of creating a limited ex-Labour splinter group rather than truly adopting the idea of positive Independent MPs is not a great first step.
In my view there are broadly speaking two schools of Independent MPs. The first and the one to aim for has been created by people such as Martin Bell who was elected as an Independent, who did not carry with him any party political baggage and who truly stood up and spoke on behalf of his constituency but also on behalf of many of us who feel political parties is not the best way of changing society. The second is created by people such as Craig Mackinlay and Fiona Onasanya who were both members of a political party until their behaviour led to them being chucked out. There is a third strand which is where Frank Field and the 7 people in the image above sit. They all have the potential to do a lot of good things, but in the case of the 7, they will need to avoid looking as though they are merely a splinter group like the ERG if they are serious about being called Independents and if they want to be seen as having the credibility of people like Martin Bell.