The Independent Group to become Change UK as they apply for party status
The Independent Group of breakaway MPs has applied to register as a political party under the name Change UK. Heidi Allen has been announced as interim leader with a permanent leader expected to be announced in September.
The move comes amid speculation that the UK may not leave the European Union by May 22 if Theresa May does not manage to pass her Withdrawal Agreement in time.
It is widely expected that if May is unable to pass her deal by April 11, the UK will request a long extension to the Article 50 process, meaning that Britain would have to take part in the European Elections in May.
The group is understood to have brought forward its timetable after receiving advice that any new party must register now to have a chance of meeting the April 1 deadline for participation in the elections.
Heidi Allen, former Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, has been announced as interim leader, with a permanent leader expected to be selected at the party’s inaugural conference in September.
Commenting on the decision, Allen said: “If we are to deliver on our ambition to change politics for the better, it is vital that we attract support from people from every walk of life, every political background and none.
"Coming into the House of Commons from running my manufacturing business in 2015, I have seen with my own eyes how improved our political system would be if it harnessed the diverse skills and experience of our country.
“We in Change UK, as we hope to be known, don't just dream about a fairer and better future for our country, we are determined to unleash it through hard work, passion and shared endeavour.”
In January, after months of speculation about a new party, seven Labour MPs broke away from the party, citing problems with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and criticism over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations.
The group was shortly joined by another Labour MP and by three Tory MPs, who had been prominent critics of the government’s Brexit policy.
The group’s spokesperson, former Labour MP Chuka Umunna, said: “There is clearly an appetite for an alternative to our broken politics which needs fundamental change, as shown by the disastrous Brexit process which has occurred under the watch of the two main parties.
"A new party will shake up the two-party system and provide people with an alternative that can change our country for the better. This is what Change UK will be aiming to do at any European elections if our application for registration is accepted in time.
“The Independent Group is a diverse group of MPs which reflects modern Britain, drawn from different generations and backgrounds including a former GP, teacher, lecturer, social worker, solicitor and TV presenter. We intend to draw on all the voices of our group in any European election campaign.
"We will seek to put forward a substantial number of MEP candidates with backgrounds from outside of politics.”