Chuka Umunna 'Held Talks With Ministers' Over New Party

Ex-Tory Sarah Wollaston has been made TIG's point of contact for 'new colleagues'.

Chuka Umunna, the de factor leader of The Independent Group’, has held talks with sitting government ministers about forming a new party, it has emerged.

Umunna, who has been appointed spokesman for the breakaway group of pro-EU MPs, held meetings with more than one minister over the past year, a well-placed source has revealed.

News of Umunna’s meetings with Tory ministers comes amid heightened speculation that more Conservatives are set to join TIG.

Former Tory Sarah Wollaston has been made the point of contact for “new colleagues”.

“The notion of a new party and its attractiveness is something Chuka has spoken to sitting ministers about over the last 12 months,” the source said.

It is not known which ministers Umunna claims to have met with.

It has also emerged Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle was forced to apologise to TIG MPs after HuffPost UK revealed he called them “scabs” for leaving the party.

The news came after TIG’s first inaugural meeting when the group selected new roles.

Ex-Tory Anna Soubry has been handed the Brexit brief, while high-profile former Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Chris Leslie take on portfolios for home affairs and the Treasury.

The group convenor role was given to ex-Labour MP Gavin Shuker, a figure who has been key in convincing politicians to make the jump.

Roles for TIG MPs

Heidi Allen - Welfare, social care and business

Luciana Berger - Home affairs, health, digital and culture

Ann Coffey - Children and education

Mike Gapes - Foreign affairs and defence

Chris Leslie - Treasury and trade

Joan Ryan - Group business manager and international development

Gavin Shuker - Group convener

Angela Smith - Transport, local government and housing, energy, environment and rural affairs

Anna Soubry - Brexit and justice (assisting on defence)

Chuka Umunna - Group spokesman, Cabinet Office, and policy co-ordination

Sarah Wollaston - New colleagues

TIG claims Russell-Moyle was asked “five times” to apologise for his comments by a “senior Labour figure” while in the division lobbies in the House of Commons.

He told an event in parliament after the split that Labour was moving to a more pro-EU position.

He said “those scabs that left will suddenly regret the day that they ever left the Labour Party”.

Most TIG MPs have said Labour’s reluctance to campaign for a second Brexit referendum was behind their decision to resign from Jeremy Corbyn’s party - but they have also been critical of the party’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.

A TIG source said: “The worst that we’ve had to live with is LRM telling us that we were scabs.

“There was an instance in the division lobby this week when he was forced by a senior figure in the party to apologise to me.”

It is not yet clear whether or when TIG will register to become a new party and the group is still appealing for donations.

HuffPost UK has contacted the Labour Party for comment.


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