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Who Will Jump Next? Westminster Gossip Mill Goes Into Overdrive After Tory Split

© AFP 2023 / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS Conservative MP Jo Johnson (C), a former minister who resigned over Brexit, is seen outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on January 15, 2019
Conservative MP Jo Johnson (C), a former minister who resigned over Brexit, is seen outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on January 15, 2019 - Sputnik International
Three Conservative MPs - Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston - have all walked out of the party and joined the Independent Group, which is pushing for a second referendum on Brexit.

Westminster is racing with rumours about who will be the next MPs to jump ship and join the anti-Brexit Independent Group bandwagon. 

Seven Labour MPs — Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Chuka Umunna, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie — announced their resignation from the Labour Party on Monday, followed by Joan Ryan on Tuesday.

On Wednesday three Tory Remainers — Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston — joined them.

​So will the Independent Group become a dirty dozen? 

And how many more might join?

Justine Greening

The Conservative MP for Putney in London has been sulking on the backbenches for some time. 

The former Education Secretary resigned from the cabinet last year after the prime minister attempted to reshuffle her.

​In October she expressed interest in launching a leadership bid if May was ousted, insisting that "things need to change" in the UK, not just with regard to Brexit.

But as Boris Johnson and the ERG became increasingly powerful within the Tory Party it has become clear a Remainer could never hope to become leader.

Greening, one of a handful of openly gay Tory MPs, might consider joining the Independent Group and could even become their leader. 

Liz Kendall

The same could be said about Labour's Liz Kendall — a rising star under Gordon Brown, her career nosedived after her catastrophic tilt at the leadership in 2015.

Five of the seven original Labour splitters had voted for Kendall in that leadership election, so it would be quite appropriate if she joined them in the IG.

​​On Wednesday she tweeted that she had "no intention of quitting" and was focused on stopping a no deal Brexit.

If she fails, it would not be a major surprise if the 47-year-old MP for Leicester West abandoned Labour later in the year if Corbyn remains as leader.

Dominic Grieve

The Conservative former Attorney General has fallen out of favour since David Cameron left 10 Downing Street and his Remainer instincts have become an increasing liability as Theresa May's party drifted further towards a hard Brexit position.

​He appeared on television on Wednesday night and made it quite clear he would quit the Tory Party if Mrs May accepted a no deal Brexit.

Grieve, 62, did not explicitly say he would join the Independent Group, but it would make sense.

He is currently chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, a position which he would inevitably lose if he quit the Tories.

Owen Smith

The man who would be king. After the failed putsch against Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum, the right wing of the Labour Party could not find anyone willing to challenge Corbyn.

In the end Owen Smith, a Welsh MP and former Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, came forward and was obliterated.

​He has been invisible ever since, except on social media where he continues to berate supporters of Brexit and even Len McCluskey, the leader of the trade union Unite, who has been a strong supporter of Corbyn.

His constituency in Pontypridd is a Labour stronghold and Smith knows that if he quits Labour he would inevitably lose his seat at the next election.

So he will certainly not rush into joining the Independent Group.

Ken Clarke

Perhaps the biggest coup the Independent Group could get would be to persuade Ken Clarke, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, to quit the Conservative Party. Clarke has been MP for Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire since 1970 — three years before Britain even joined the European Union, or the EEC as it was then.

​He rose to the senior ranks of government under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and was one of the few voices in the Cabinet that spoke up for Europe at that time, when she was constantly battling against greater integration.

A cigar smoking maverick, Clarke is now on the left wing of the Conservative Party but at the age of 78 it will be hard to persuade him to leave the party he has been a member of for half a century.

Margaret Hodge

Many people may be wondering why Margaret Hodge, a Jewish Labour MP who has been at the forefront of the criticism of the party's handling of anti-Semitism allegations, is still in the party.

​Born in Egypt to Jewish parents, she has been MP for Barking in east London since 1994 and spent much of that time defeating the anti-immigrant British National Party (BNP), which began to make inroads in Tower Hamlets Council. Hodge was a junior minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but her politics were out of kilter with Corbyn's and she has been a constant sniping presence since he became leader.

She submitted the first letter of no confidence in him in 2016. She is 74 now and, like Clarke, may not be willing to abandon the party she has served for so many years.

Stephen Kinnock

Stephen Kinnock — whose father Neil was Labour Party leader in the 1980s — became Labour MP for Aberavon in south Wales in 2015, despite having spent most of his life in England and Denmark.

​Kinnock worked in the European Parliament and for the World Economic Forum in Geneva before becoming an MP and is a big supporter of the "European project", even though most people in his constituency voted to Leave. His wife — Helle Thorning-Schmidt — was Denmark's Prime Minister from 2011 until 2015.

Kinnock appeared on television on Wednesday night and insisted he would stay in Labour and "fight his corner".

Jo Johnson

Boris Johnson's brother Jo is also a Conservative MP but is on the other end of the Brexit spectrum to his sibling.

In November he resigned from his job as a transport minister because of his opposition to the Brexit deal. Johnson referred to May's Brexit negotiations as a "failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis."

​"Brexit has divided the country. It has divided political parties. And it has divided families too. Although I voted Remain, I have desperately wanted the Government, in which I have been proud to serve, to make a success of Brexit: to reunite our country, our party and, yes, my family too," Johnson wrote in his resignation statement.

But the Johnson family may be about to face another rupture if Jo quits the Conservative Party and moves to the Independent Group.

Boris's sister Rachel also resigned from the Conservative Party in 2017, moving to the Liberal Democrats because of her opposition to Brexit.

Ian Austin

The Labour MP for Dudley North is openly vacillating on whether to join the Independent Group. He said he would make a decision by the end of the week.

Jess Phillips

A fierce feminist, Jess Phillips has been a thorn in the side of the Labour leadership since 2015. She repeatedly pointed out the lack of women in prominent positions in the Shadow Cabinet — until Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott were promoted.

Phillips remains at loggerheads with Momentum, but whether she would have much in common with the Independent Group or its former Tory MPs is another matter.

John Mann

A long-time opponent of Jeremy Corbyn, Mann has little truck with the Remainers as he represents a seat in the north of England where Leave won in the 2016 referendum.

So don't expect him to jump ship, at least not until Brexit is sorted.

Ian Murray

After the 2015 election Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South, was the only Labour MP north of the border.

​In an interview on Wednesday, Murray said he thought he would "die in the Labour Party" but he was finding it increasingly difficult to defend the leadership on the doorstep.

"It seems to me as if the Labour leadership are trolling MPs, they're pushing them out the door, taking us to the brink and asking us to jump, and really that's not the way you try and bring the party back together and I think people can see that for what it is," he told ITV.

Murray sounds like he might be only days away from becoming the Independent Group's first Scottish MP.

Sam Gyimah

The former universities minister quit the government in November and has been highly critical of Theresa May's Brexit strategy."

In these protracted negotiations, our interests will be repeatedly and permanently hammered by the EU27 for many years to come. Britain will end up worse off, transformed from rule makers into rule takers," he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

Gyimah, who retweeted Anna Soubry's resignation letter on Wednesday, would be an asset for the Independent Group, who currently only have one ethnic minority MP.

Stephen Doughty

The Cardiff South MP has been highly critical of the Labour leadership but is thought to be planning to stick it out, rather than jump ship right now.

Nicky Morgan

The 46-year-old Conservative MP for Loughborough appeared to be heading for high office. David Cameron appointed her Education Secretary in 2014 and she campaigned prominently for the Remain campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum.

When Cameron quit and Theresa May took over, Morgan was suddenly kicked out of the Cabinet and she soon became one of May's most strident critics.

Her Remainer tendencies could lead her to join the Independent Group but she has to weigh up her political principles and her knowledge that she would face certain defeat in a general election.

Wes Streeting

West Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, was a close ally of Mike Gapes, who represented the neighbouring constituency.

Both have been highly critical of the Labour leadership but when Gapes jumped ship and joined the Independent Group, Streeting made it clear he would stay with Labour.

Anna Turley

The 40-year-old Labour MP for Redcar, in the north east of England, has been a critic of Corbyn's leadership. She is reportedly on the brink of leaving Labour.

Ivan Lewis

The MP for Bury South, Ivan Lewis, left the Labour Party in December.

Lewis, who is Jewish, accused Mr Corbyn of being "unwilling to condemn those whose hatred of Israel becomes Jew hatred."

Lewis, who was a minister in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, also criticised the time it was taking to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

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