Can the new British party buck the trend of division sweeping the globe?

by Andrew Anthony / 12 March, 2019
Breakaway MPs from both major parties joined together to form a new political party. Photo/Getty Images

Breakaway MPs from both major parties joined together to form a new political party. Photo/Getty Images

RelatedArticlesModule - The Independent Group uk

Regardless of what happens with Brexit, The Independent Group is raising questions important to our time.

And so Britain faces its moment of truth once again, but what that truth is no one is quite sure. The country is due to leave the European Union on March 29, and yet that deadline has become like Zeno’s arrow, a destination that seems philosophically impossible to arrive at. 

In the déjà vu democracy that now operates here, Parliament is voting on whether to accept Theresa May’s new deal with the EU – the one that EU members have already insisted will have nothing new in it – having in January voted by a huge number to reject the first proposal that was almost exactly the same as the new one is likely to be. If you’re scratching your head, trying to work out what that means, all I can tell you is that you’re not alone. A whole nation is with you.

Into this strained limbo that has turned Britain at large and Parliament in particular into a pit of seething resentments, comes a new party. The Independent Group (TIG) has been formed by eleven breakaway MPs – eight from the Labour Party, and three from the Conservatives. 

As yet they don’t have much of a manifesto, but there are two policies on which the group is united. They’re in favour of the EU and a second referendum, and they’re against antisemitism. At the moment, those issues also happen to be the ones that are dominating political debate. The Labour Party can speak of nothing else and, against its leadership’s self-righteous instincts, has reluctantly agreed to support a second referendum and acknowledge – sort of – that the party has an antisemitism problem. 

One of the MPs who left Labour is Luciana Berger, a pregnant Jewish woman, who was bombarded with antisemitic threats and insults, to the extent that she required a bodyguard just to attend the party conference. A once great campaigning party for justice and equality has become mired in conspiracy theories that blame Jewish bankers and the state of Israel for all the world’s ills. Atop this heap of hate sits Jeremy Corbyn, a man who sees himself as a dedicated anti-racist, but who can’t bring himself to mention the word “Israel” and draws support from people who see all Jews as a holding their prime allegiance to that state, unless they specifically state otherwise.

One of these characters is a man called Derek Hatton, a far-left maverick who made his name in the 1980s, when his Trotskyist group ran Liverpool council into the ground. On the day that Berger quit Labour, Hatton was readmitted to the party, only to be immediately suspended for a historic antisemitic tweet. A short while later a loyalist Corbyn MP named Chris Williamson was suspended – apparently against Corbyn’s wishes – after he claimed Labour had apologised too much for being antisemitic. 

TIG is at the moment little more than a protest group. But what they’re protesting about – the movement of both main parties away from the centre towards the extremes of left and right – is a concern that will only grow, regardless of what happens with Brexit. It’s not specifically a British malaise, because the same divisive trend is sweeping the globe, but it has taken worrying root here. TIG is almost certainly not the answer to the problems that beset this troubled land. But at least it’s raising the question.  

This article was first published in the March 16, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

How to enhance your dining experience – with water
103174 2019-03-22 00:00:00Z Dining

How to enhance your dining experience – with water…

by Metro

A stunning dining experience isn’t just about food and wine. Water plays a big part too.

Read more
Facebook won't give up its insidious practices without a fight
103856 2019-03-22 00:00:00Z Tech

Facebook won't give up its insidious practices wit…

by Peter Griffin

Facebook came under fire for its response to the live-streaming of the Christchurch terror attack, but it's digital nudging that's also concerning.

Read more
In photos: The world unites in solidarity with Christchurch
103800 2019-03-21 15:36:46Z World

In photos: The world unites in solidarity with Chr…

by Lauren Buckeridge

Countries around the world have put on a show of solidarity for the victims of the Christchurch terror attack.

Read more
The tangled path to terrorism
103777 2019-03-21 09:59:55Z Psychology

The tangled path to terrorism

by Marc Wilson

The path that leads people to commit atrocities such as that in Christchurch is twisting and unpredictable, but the journey often begins in childhood.

Read more
If 'This is not New Zealand', let us show it
103768 2019-03-21 09:31:27Z Social issues

If 'This is not New Zealand', let us show it

by The Listener

The little signs among the banks of flowers said, “This is not New Zealand.” They meant, “We thought we were better than this.” We were wrong.

Read more
Extremism is not a mental illness
103785 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Crime

Extremism is not a mental illness

by The Mental Health Foundation of NZ

Shooting people is not a symptom of a mental illness. White supremacy is not a mental illness.

Read more
PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles
103805 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Crime

PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automa…

by RNZ

Ms Ardern pledged the day after the terrorist massacre that "gun laws will change" and would be announced within 10 days of the attack.

Read more
No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 years of GCSB & SIS public docs
103770 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Politics

No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 y…

by Jane Patterson

There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of security agency documents.

Read more