Who are the Independents?

So now the secret seven have revealed themselves.

A group of former Labour MPs very clear about what they stand against, but what is it exactly that they stand for?

It’s too early to call them a political party. For now, they are going by the name of The Independent Group - a cluster of MPs who belong to no party and will vote on a case by case basis, even if that means backing the Conservative government.

We know why they left Labour: anger over antisemitism, frustration over Brexit, disillusionment with Jeremy Corbyn’s politics. And they also gave some hints this morning about where they’re running to.

Essentially, they want to evolve into a centrist party, which at face value appears not dissimilar to New Labour.

They talked about being a pro-NATO, pro-Western, pro-business party, but also of being anti-poverty, anti-privilege and pro-aspiration. The classic centrist mix of 1990s "Blairite" Britain.

Their challenge is that today’s politics are in many ways a reaction to that neoliberal tradition.

Why do they believe returning to the politics of the past will provide a future, when Brexit, Corbynism and even the growth in the far right are all attributed to frustration with a centrist system that many felt failed to deliver.

The other challenge is numbers.

As I put to them today, seven is a nice number for a dinner party, but not a significant political party.

They’ll be smaller than the Lib Dems. It’s clear they want others, from the Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem side to join them, but MPs may prefer to watch and wait to see how things develop before they follow such a bold leap into the unknown.

But the band of seven can’t afford to hang around too long.

Labour MPs during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster and the creation of a new Independent Group in the House of Commons. Credit: PA

They already risk being seen as an entitled bunch who refuse to give up their seats, despite betraying the party ticket that helped get them elected.

They’ll need to reinvent themselves quickly if they’re going to maintain momentum and demonstrate they can deliver at the ballot box and deserve their place in parliament.

History suggests that will be difficult.

I’ll leave it for others to rehearse the fate of the SDP, save to say that the Independents claim this is a new movement for a new century and comparisons with the past are irrelevant.

But British party politics has been pretty much set for a century - our system suffocates new movements and favours the old brands. Just ask UKIP.

The irony is that the last party to truly break through on a mass scale was Labour, at the start of the 20th century.

The Independents will need to aspire to the success of the very party that they now deem a failure.