IIt would always be a race to see which party was split first. And when it came down to it, Labor beat the Tories. Monday morning during the half-term week in the London County Hall, etc. may not be everyone's idea to find a good opportunity to start a new party. The Etc statement does not quite have the same reputation as 1981's SDP Limehouse statement. Nevertheless, the airless, business conference room on the fourth floor was rammed half an hour before Labor's new Labor supergroup appeared.
On the stage stood seven empty orange-brown leather armchairs, a high stool and a desk with a blank sheet of paper covering the new logo. We now had an idea of how many were in the band, but no one knew who exactly they were and who Val Doonican would be and take the stool. There could not have been more excitement if Steps or S Club 7 said they would do a comeback tour. In 10 minutes, the name of the new party became known as the "independent group". Catchy.
When the clock came off at 10 o'clock far after the start time, there were rumors of splits in the split before the breakup, but then a voice called out, "They're coming down the corridor." Elvis was in the building. Moments later, several doormen cleared the hallway and the expected figures of Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Chuka Umunna made their way to the stage and headed for the seven places.
Berger took the first solo and fluttered its lines, introducing itself as a Labor MP. She seemed close to tears as she hastily corrected herself. Enough was enough. She was embarrassed and ashamed of institutional anti-Semitism, which the leadership deliberately failed to address. She was fed up with bullying, bigotry and intimidation, and now resigned to stand as an independent MP.
For the next key change Leslie was on lead vocals. It was hard to part, he confessed. But Labor had changed, not him. He was still committed to the same values he was first chosen to be. The party had betrayed its followers because of Brexit, and he could not stay longer while Corbyn took the responsibility. He was also sure that there were many other MPs who secretly felt the same way, and he hoped that the Independent Group would be able to work together in the studio and do gigs together at a later date.
The other five solo slots have pretty much repeated the first two. A bit of rural and western personal history, a repetition that others, not them, were blamed for their artistic work in the Labor Party and a call to others to join them. The main differences were in tone. Coffey and Smith accepted the small key of regret; Gapes excused himself with anger, while Umunna opted for the rational, pragmatic approach. Shuker was hampered by the fact that he was largely unknown. So he had to explain who he was and why he was invited as a companion singer.
Things started to clear up a bit when the new band was asked to explain what they were for and not against what they were. It had been so traumatic for everyone to leave the Labor Party after so many years of trying to get their voices heard from within that they had forgotten that they should have a new album and a new tour to take to them Promote. This was the start, which did not explain exactly what the start was.
No, it was definitely not a new party. They were a movement. Although they could become a party sometime in the future. Do not fret, man. They did not even have a leader. However, it was possible that Gary Barlow would eventually take over, if his recording schedule allowed it.
No, they did not stand back to make a selection because their fans did not want that. No, they would not form an alliance with the Lib Dems because the Lib Dem brand was poisonous, but if any Lib Dems wanted to join them, that would be fine. And they would also like to leave a few Tories to the left of the center, even though those MPs were still in a contract dispute with their record labels.
And that was that. Seven Labor MPs who were openly disgruntled with their party had decided to go it alone. It felt less of an important political reorientation than a cry of regret and irreconcilable desperation. No one could figure out what they had done or what they had achieved. If any. Not even her. And we never found out who the stool was.