In a shock move, on 18 February seven UK Labour MPs resigned from the party and declared the creation of a new political collective — the 'Independent Group'.
Minutes after their launch presser concluded, the Independent Group website — which leading 'splitter' Chuka Umunna had repeatedly urged voters to visit and register — crashed, remaining 'down' for some time. A mere two hours later, Angela Smith — one of the seven defectors — would refer to non-white individuals as having a "funny tinge".
Late to the Party
For one, the Group has occasionally been referred to as a political party, but it isn't — not yet, at least. It would in fact arguably be more accurate to describe the effort as the political wing of 'Gemini A', a limited company launched by Gavin Shuker, one of the seven splitters, 16 January 2019, which according to the Group's official website 'supports' the effort.
Ironically, given the Independent Group cited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's resistance to a second Brexit referendum as a major motivating factor behind their departure, the company's registered office in Altrincham, Greater Manchester is situated above a Wetherspoons pub, a chain which famously backed leaving the EU.
The Electoral Commission has confirmed it's in contact with the seven MPs, and seeks to "understand the structure of the Group" — and they will all still be subject to House of Commons rules, obliging them to report any donations they personally in excess of US$1,950 (£1,500).
While there's no suggestion Gemini A was set up specifically to shield the identities of potential donors — and the size of their donations — from public view, limited companies are frequently used and abused for this purpose in politics in the UK and elsewhere. In the US, a 2006 Department of Treasury report stated such structures are "inherently vulnerable to abuse", frequently facilitating the transfer of billions of dollars to political groups and candidates without any transparency about the source of the funds.
In a particularly notorious case of US limited company abuse, W Spann LLC was formed in March 2011 for the express purpose of anonymously donating US$1 million to 'Restore Our Future', a Super PAC supporting then-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney — the funds were transferred the next month, and the company dissolved that July.
In addition to its speedy liquidation, suspicions about the company were raised when it was revealed the organization's address in Manhattan was shared with Bain Capital, of which Romney was once Chief Executive Office. Eventually, it was revealed the donation had been made by Ed Conard, a former associate of Romney at Bain.