At a time when British politics has been increasingly fractured, with intra-party tensions cutting across both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, small political groupings and independent MPs in the Commons have taken on a more significant position than ever before. This book explores the rise and fall of Change UK within the wider context of the experiences of other small political groupings in the House of Commons. It examines the struggles facing MPs who leave behind the comforts of the large political parties and the strategies they use to draw attention to their cause.
When the SDP formed in 1981 one of its number, former Labour MP Mike Thomas, raced to the Commons chamber to ask a parliamentary question, ensuring that the new party's name was rapidly embedded into the official record of parliamentary proceedings.
There was no such rush for the ChangeUK MPs. This perhaps reflects the importance of securing positive news coverage for the party. With little attention devoted by the press to business in the Commons chamber, they would need to focus on venues
-and-supply agreement – and then refusing to cast their votes for a Brexit deal on any occasion throughout 2019, demonstrates the power which small parties can wield in British politics today.
The creation of The Independent Group/ChangeUK in early 2019 was in many respects a natural progression of these longer-term trends in British politics; a sign that the two main political parties could not continue to monopolise the parliamentary and political system for much longer. This was reinforced by the formation of the Brexit Party and its first parliamentary group
party earlier that year, forming a new independent grouping with ten other MPs in the Commons which would later become a fully fledged political party, ChangeUK. Shuker left ChangeUK, along with several of his colleagues, in the summer of 2019 and stood as an independent in the General Election which followed. Just five minutes after the results of Luton South were announced, Shuker's former ChangeUK colleague Chris Leslie would also lose his seat in Nottingham East. They would be followed over the next couple of hours by Anna Soubry, Angela Smith, Sarah Wollaston
On 25 February 2019, the members of ChangeUK tweeted a series of photos of them enjoying a meal at the Nando's restaurant chain. Described by Chuka Umunna as their first night out, it prompted intense speculation about their choice of meals and whether or not this meant they were seasoned Nando's diners or first-timers trying to make a good impression on the public. While the food choices seemed significant for some, the more important thing was what this showed about the group's size, structure and organisation. In particular, it highlighted
Once the excitement of ChangeUK's creation had settled down, things must have felt pretty tough for its MPs. The reality of being a small party without the backing of the big party whips hit them hard; it was ‘quite a shock to the system’.
This was especially true because they wanted to make a strong first impression on their fellow MPs as well as on the general public in order to keep the momentum of their launch going. This is where the group could have learnt some lessons from their new
Britain and Africa in the twenty-first century provides the first analysis of the state of UK Africa policy in the era of austerity, Conservative government and Brexit. It explores how Britain’s relationship with Africa has evolved since the days of Blair, Brown and Make Poverty History and examines how a changing UK political environment, and international context, has impacted upon this long-standing – and deeply complex – relationship. This edited collection provides an indispensable reference point for researchers and practitioners interested in contemporary UK–Africa relations and the broader place of Africa in British politics and foreign policy. Across twelve chapters, the book’s contributors examine how far UK Africa policy has been transformed since the fall of the 1997–2010 Labour Government and how far Conservative, or Conservative-led, Governments have reshaped and re-cast links with the continent. The book includes analyses of UK approaches to diplomacy, security, peacekeeping, trade and international development in, or with, Africa. The contributions, offered by UK- and Africa-based scholars and practitioners, nonetheless take a broader perspective on UK–Africa relations, examining the changing perspectives, policies and actions of political parties, advocacy groups and the UK population itself. The authors argue that the Afro-optimism of the Blair years no longer provides the guiding framework for UK engagement with Africa. It has not, however, been replaced by an alternative paradigm, leaving significant space for different forms of relationship to be built, or reconstructed. The book includes a foreword by Chi Onwurah MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Africa.
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