TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images
- The Independent Group is considering an electoral alliance with the Liberal Democrats.
- As part of the plan, TIG and the Lib Dems would be independent parties under the same "umbrella" but have joint candidates in certain seats at future elections.
- Sources familiar with talks compared it to the Labour & Cooperative Party alliance.
- TIG MPs believe that their party-to-be has a brighter future than the Lib Dems and ought to be the driving force in any future electoral alliance.
- TIG announced on Friday that it had applied to become an official political party.
- TIG will be a big issue in the upcoming Lib Dem leadership contest.
LONDON — The Independent Group is mulling an electoral alliance with the Liberal Democrats in which they would both run under the same "umbrella" and field joint candidates in certain seats at future elections.
The group of former Labour and Conservative MPs announced this week that they are applying to become a political party under the name of Change UK. The party-to-be also plans to field candidates in the May European Parliament elections, should a lengthy delay to Brexit force the UK to partake.
Business Insider has been told that the group has discussed forming an electoral alliance with the Liberal Democrats which is similar to the Labour party’s relationship with the Cooperative Party.
Under the proposed arrangement, both parties would remain independent but agree on joint candidates to stand in certain seats.
These discussions were confirmed by sources in both TIG and the Lib Dems. It is just one of the ideas which TIG is considering in regards to how to cooperate with other opposition parties in future elections.
Those familiar with the talks believe this sort of electoral alliance could be beneficial for both parties.
TIG would be able to lean on the Lib Dems’ resources which itself lacks to fight local elections, while increasing its chances of winning seats a national level.
One Lib Dem official, who is familiar with the discussions, described the proposal as a "collective umbrella," which in theory, would improve the electoral prospects of both groups, while allowing each of them to remain independent.
There are currently 33 MPs who represent the Labour & Cooperative Party electoral alliance.
Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images
Discussions have already begun in certain marginal seats.
The leader of the Lib Dems on Liverpool council, Richard Kemp, wrote to Independent Group MP Luciana Berger, earlier this year signalling a possible electoral pact in her Wavertree seat.
"We would like to meet with you and chat openly and honestly about what we agree and disagree on and how we might work together in both campaigning and electoral terms to deliver what your grouping and the Liberal Democrats both desire," Kemp wrote to Berger.
One senior Lib Dem figure told BI that the Liverpool Lib Dems were considering a possible pact with Berger, in which they would step aside at the next general election in exchange for Berger’s supporters stepping aside in the upcoming local elections.
However, TIG MPs like Chris Leslie stress that the newly-found anti-Brexit group must remain fully independent from other parties.
Speaking after TIG’s launch last month, the ex-Labour MP said: "What’s important for us is that we are trying to create something different to the 20th century institutions work."
"I mean no disrespect to the [Lib Dems], they have their own organisation and there will always be a Liberal party.
He added: "But everyone has to make a sacrifice here. If there’s a sense they don’t need to do anything significant like we have, I don’t think that’s right."
TIG MPs, particularly group spokesperson Chuka Umunna, believe that that the group has a brighter future than the Liberal Democrats, and ought to be the senior partner in any future electoral alliance.
TIG MPs have also suggested that Lib Dem MPs would be better off quitting their party.
BI reported last month that a number of Lib Dems donors were considering following the handful who had withdrawn their support to pump money into TIG instead, including businessman Charlie Mullins.
Lib Dem leadership contest to be dominated by Tig
Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
How the Liberal Democrats should interact with TIG in the months and potentially years ahead is set to be one of the biggest issues in the upcoming contest to replace Sir Vince Cable as party leader.
Jo Swinson — the party’s current deputy leader who is among the three MPs expected to run for Cable’s job — is thought to be the most open to collaborating with TIG and possibly letting the group use Lib Dem resources.
"She [Swinson] gets it," a TIG MP recently told BI.
Swinson’s closest leadership rival Layla Moran is "playing her cards close to her chest" on the issue of the Lib Dems’ relationship with TIG, a Lib Dem source told BI, adding "and that is relatively canny."
The third name in the leadership race, Ed Davey, is the least keen on an electoral alliance.
The party is considering speeding up Cable’s departure in order to make sure that his eventual successor is in place and prepared for a snap general election, which could take place in the next few months.
Swinson and Moran are viewed by party insiders as the front-runners in the contest which could determine the party’s long-term future and role in UK politics.
Not just how it will interact TIG, but whether it will make rejoining the European Union a key priority after Brexit, which one source said was an "existential issue" for the party.
"In the 2015 leadership contest, the party was emotionally and physically f****d. It was more about electing someone who could keep the show on the road," a senior Lib Dem official told BI this week.
"This is the first chance in years the party has had to have an intellectual conversation about what it wants to be."<
Insiders say it is the most unpredictable contest in years, with officials uncertain about how the thousands of new members will feel about the candidates, or how many of them are actually likely to vote.
Swinson boasts experience of having serving in government and is expected to be backed by most Lib Dem MPs.
Insiders believe that Moran also has a strong chance of winning, in spite of her relative inexperience, largely because she represents a break from the party’s recent past and time in Coalition with the Conservatives.
"What’s helpful is she is the post-Coalition candidate," a Lib Dem source said.
"She doesn’t have the baggage that Ed and Jo have."
- The Independent Group applies to become an official political party
- What happens now the UK parliament has seized control of Brexit?
- Just 6% of British voters believe Theresa May’s Brexit deal is good