Chuka Umunna today refused to stand in a by-election after joining the Liberal Democrats – his third political party in four months.
The former Labour shadow minister and spokesman for Change UK was unveiled by Sir Vince Cable’s revitalised Remainer party – just six years after the Streatham MP said you ‘can’t trust’ them.
Mr Umunna, who quit Jeremy Corbyn’s party in February, faced calls today to allow a ‘people’s vote’ in his south London seat and stand in a by-election, including from Labour chairman Ian Lavery.
But at a launch event in central London he claimed people in his heavily pro-Remain area supported his actions.
He blasted hard Left Corbyn supporters and ‘people in the (political) bubble’ who ‘don’t seem to understand how much politics has changed’.
‘It is no longer a left/right thing. It is much more complex than that and in many ways whether they were Leave or Remain is a much better determinant of how they will vote,’ he said.
‘I represent the most Remain constituency in the country so they don’t have a problem with what I’m doing because they know what my values are and what I believe in and they know I want us to stay in the European Union.
‘That might be why the Liberal Democrats at the European elections won every single ward in my constituency bar one and came very close to taking a seat in one of the recent council by-elections.
‘I haven’t had people in the street having a go at me – there might be the odd Momentum Corbynite but I can live with that.’
Mr Umunna was unveiled by Sir Vince Cable in central London today. The Lib Dems are the third party the former shadow minister has been a member of this year
Mr Umunna said: ‘I haven’t had people in the street having a go at me – there might be the odd Momentum Corbynite but I can live with that’
The former shadow business secretary quit Labour in February this year to join The Independent Group, which became Change UK ahead of the European elections last month.
Following disappointing election results, where Change UK failed to make major gains but the Lib Dems came second after the Brexit Party, Mr Umunna went independent again along with five other former Labour and Tory MPs.
Sir Vince Cable said today he was ‘having conversations’ with other independent MPs about joining the party.
‘They are making a decision based on their own personal circumstances and in their own time,’ he said.
‘But it’s clear that we share values, objectives, with quite a few of them.’
Sir Vince Cable (left) said today he was ‘having conversations’ with other independent MPs about joining the party
Mr Umunna posed with Lib Dem London mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita at his unveiling today
Mr Umunna, 40, defended his decision to abandon the Labour Party saying ‘the easy thing is to sit in your comfort zone’.
‘Ian Lavery,the chair of the Labour Party, loves to talk about a People’s Vote when it comes to a by-election but he’s somehow allergic to the idea of having a People’s Vote when it comes to the biggest issue facing this country since the Second World War which is Brexit .’
‘First and foremost Under our constitution you elect individuals – unlike Ian Lavery I’d like to change our constitution.
‘Secondly the biggest issue facing my constituency – which scored the highest Remain vote in the land in 2016 – is Brexit and a large part of what drove me to leave the Labour Party is Brexit and the fact that I’m opposed to it.’
The former shadow business secretary (pictured left) quit Labour in February this year to join the new Independent group with ex-Tory MP Anna Soubry (pictured right), which became Change UK ahead of the European elections last month
When he was a Labour MP, Mr Umunna previously indicated in September 2013 that you ‘can’t trust a word the Lib Dems say’
Current Lib Dem leader Vince Cable (pictured right) has welcomed Mr Umunna into the fold
The tweets from Mr Umunna were made on September 14, 2013 and are in response to Vince Cable talking about raising the minimum wage.
He said: ‘Vince Cable talks about increasing the minimum wage but you can’t trust a word the Lib Dems say.
‘At every the Lib Dems have supported making it easier to fire not hire people at work and under their government people are £1,500pa worse off.’
But now it appears Mr Umunna has had a change of heart (and political party), and now thinks you can trust what the newly resurgent Liberal Democrats say.
Change UK forced to alter their name for a third time
Change UK has been forced to change its name for a third time in yet another fiasco for the party.
The fledgling political party, originally known as The Independent Group, made the move after being threatened with legal action by the Change.org petition site.
It issued a statement last night saying it will apply for registration with the Electoral Commission as The Independent Group for Change.
The switch is another embarrassment for the party – formed by breakaway Tory and Labour MPs – which lost six of its 11 MPs earlier this month following its disastrous showing in the European elections.
In April, the group’s registration with the Electoral Commission as a political party named Change UK was accepted, although its logo was rejected, in part for the inclusion of a hashtag.
The group’s black and white bus featuring its replacement logo was also mocked as it looked like it featured a bar code.
And two of the party’s candidates had to drop out for making offensive social media posts, while another defected to the Liberal Democrats.
Yesterday, the party issued a statement setting out how lawyers from Change..org disputed the group’s right to register as ‘Change UK’ with the Electoral Commission ahead of the European elections.
They explained how ‘under threat of legal action’ by Change.org, which could have seen ‘each MP being sued personally’ and with no time left to register a new party name, Change UK ‘felt we had no option but to sign a legal agreement’ to ditch the name following the election.
They added: ‘We are now legally obliged to make a formal application to the Electoral Commission, to amend our name by 15th June, so today we are applying to register ourselves as ‘The Independent Group for Change’ and will await the Electoral Commission’s decision.
‘We remain determined as a party to tackle the big issues facing the country.
‘Preventing a disastrous no deal Brexit and fixing Britain’s broken politics remain our absolute focus as we begin to build our new policy platform.’
The Independent Group was launched on February 18 this year by seven MPs who had quit Labour and four more, including three Tories, who quickly became known as the Tiggers.
The European results proved disappointing for the anti-Brexit group and six of its 11 MPs left the party at the start of this month, including interim leader Heidi Allen and group spokesman Chuka Umunna.
The pro-Remain party was in doubt last night after it secured just four per cent of the vote and failed to win a single MEP.
It failed to make an impact in the face of a surge for the Liberal Democrats, who campaigned on a similar pro-EU message.
There were also reports of infighting, with Anna Soubry, the party’s Brexit spokeswoman, also accused leader Heidi Allen of ‘bizarre’ behaviour for suggesting their supporters engage in tactical voting.
The former Tory minister said ‘over 600,000 people went and voted for us, a genuinely new party’ which was an ‘extremely good’ result, she claimed.
Mr Umunna said the party are ‘at the forefront’ of ‘a progressive and internationalist movement’ in British politics.
He said: ‘Labour and the Tories are committed to facilitating Brexit, and Brexit makes ending austerity virtually impossible.
‘The Liberal Democrats are not – they were arguing for a People’s Vote and to remain in the EU from the very start.
‘I am convinced the Liberal Democrats, as the spearhead of a broader progressive movement in civil society, offer the best chance to improve the lives of those I represent as well as countless other citizens across our country.’
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable welcomed Mr Umunna into the fold.
He said: ‘Chuka and I have worked together effectively for many months, campaigning for a People’s Vote and to Stop Brexit.
‘I know that he will be a great asset to our party not just on Brexit, but in fighting for the liberal and social democratic values that we share.
‘He joins alongside 20,000 people across the country just this month, demonstrating clearly that the Liberal Democrats are the biggest, clearest and most formidable force in the liberal centre-ground of British politics today.’
He was widely expected to become the leader of Change UK, but ended up as party spokesman instead.
His decision to join the Lib Dems was welcomed by current deputy leader Jo Swinson, who is running for leadership of the party.
She said: ‘I have worked with Chuka on the People’s Vote campaign, and I know the passion, intellect, and energy he will bring to our party, and our campaign to stop Brexit.
‘This proves that the Liberal Democrats are the rallying point for those who are opposed to Brexit, want to tackle the climate emergency and want to stand up to the forces of nationalism and populism.
‘There are millions of people, like Chuka, who share those values, and I want them to join our party.’
Mr Umunna tweeted he would be joining the Liberal Democrats, and also posted a statement.
He told The Times: ‘I’ve got a pretty thick skin.
‘You don’t leave all of the political security of what are the two main parties if you’re out for self-advancement. And I’m not sure what more I could do to prove that I’m not, not a careerist.’
‘I also think I vastly underestimated the importance of having an infrastructure and existing relationships with voters, which is a point that Vince had made to me long before I actually left the Labour Party.
‘Time and time again when I was speaking to voters around the country and in my constituency, people were saying, ‘Well, look, why don’t you just join the Liberal Democrats? Why don’t you all come together in the progressive centre ground?’
‘I think we’ve got to grab the chance to fundamentally change the system for ever now. And if we don’t do so, I think history will be a poor judge of us.
‘I’m really grateful to Vince because he’s always been very clear all the way through everything that’s happened over the last couple of years that the door is always wide open and I’ve been made to feel incredibly welcome and people could have taken a different view in the Liberal Democrats to my arrival.
‘This isn’t about leading the Lib Dems — honestly, that’s not why I’ve done it. I will not be leading the Lib Dems now or at any point.
‘I’m a Streatham boy born and bred and I’m absolutely committed to the constitu-ency,’ he said but added that where he stands at the next election is a ‘discussion that needs to be had.’