Chuka Umunna has already defected from Labour and Change UK this year.
Chuka Umunna has joined the Liberal Democrat party after leaving Change UK. His short-lived project with Change UK – formerly The Independent Group – has come to an abrupt end as Umunna uproots and changes parties again. Having defected from Labour in February to form his pro-European centrist group, Umunna is now on the move again.
But his flexible approach to political allegiance has divided opinion – some believe Umunna is a hypocritical politician. Alternatively, it could be argued that this is symptomatic of the values he champions. His concept of ‘progressive politics’ calls for the abandonment of party political allegiance and the formation of a new wave of centrism.
Umunna will now stand as an MP for the Lib Dems. He joins outgoing leader Vince Cable and becomes the party’s 12th MP. Here are some of Umunna’s pledges after joining the Lib Dems (as set out in an article he wrote for The Independent).
Remain in the EU
Umunna’s primary reason for leaving the Labour party was the leadership’s stance on Brexit (alongside prevalent antisemitism within the party). And TIG was formed to promote pro-European values.
He believes that staying in the EU promotes the value of ‘patriotic internationalism’; it allows the UK to have strong relations with other nation states.
Umunna was a prominent voice backing the People’s Vote movement, which he will continue to support while with the Lib Dems. His shift to the Lib Dems is a tactical one; there needs to be a Remain Alliance and the Liberal Democrat party is well-placed to be the leader of pro-European voices.
In line with the Lib Dem ideology, Umunna strong believes in reforming the electoral system. He has labelled the current First Past the Post method ‘undemocratic’ and ‘anachronistic’.
Umunna wants to see proportional representation introduced, which is consistent with his voting record. A proportional voting system would help to abolish the UK’s two-party system.
The Lib Dems won roughly eight per cent of the popular vote in the 2017 snap election but only won 12 of 650 seats. As Umunna joins the Lib Dems, he will be campaigning for a voting system which allows the smaller parties to obtain more power in government.
Umunna is a strong believer in localising policymaking. By this, he means taking some decision-making power away from politicians in Westminster and allowing those who know more about local issues to have their say.
Westminster politicians can often decide on policy from their ivory towers, so to speak, without having the real-life experiences needed to understand the situation. There is also a concern that a large number of politicians fit the same profile (e.g. Oxbridge-educated, white, male, over a certain age, etc.).
The UK population is not proportionally represented in Westminster and Umunna wants to hand power back to the people as much as possible. Giving the public an equal voice helps promote a healthy democracy and protect minorities, Umunna argues. An example of handing power back to the public could include trialling citizens assemblies.
Upon joining the Lib Dems, Umunna felt he had to clarify his position on tuition fees. This was a topic which sparked widespread conspiracy during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration.
Prior to the coalition government, the Lib Dems pledged to veto any plan to increase tuition fees. Infamously, the party performed a U-turn and university fees went up. This broken promise was seen as a betrayal of trust and was one of the driving factors behind the Lib Dems’ failure in the 2015 election.
Umunna describes this as a ‘major mistake’ but adds that it was a lesson learned. The Lib Dems have apologised since and Umunna says that fees must not rise again.
Umunna also acknowledges the economic mistakes made by the coalition government. He was strongly opposed to public spending cuts imposed under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
But under Cable, the Lib Dems have proposed an anti-austerity manifesto which Umunna wholeheartedly supports. The Lib Dem party has also consistently voted against the Conservative budget, showing signs of change.
Umunna joins the Lib Dems in support of the Cable administration’s manifesto. Together, they will promote their anti-austerity economic policy.