By Maisie Marston
The name change of The Independent Group to ‘Change UK’ has been nothing short of tumultuous. During the announcement of the group’s new title, ex-Conservative MP, Anna Soubry mistakenly christened it as ‘Change.org’, a web address belonging to a UK-based petitions website. Not long after this, change.org released a statement saying they were seeking legal guidance on the group’s new name, as they were worried it would politicise their non-partisan website. It’s safe to say that the transition has been anything but smooth.
Aside from the change of name, on March 31 the group of breakaway Labour and Conservative MPs also applied to become an official political party. Due to elections to the European Parliament occurring between 23-26 May, the UK may be required to vote if it is still a member of the EU, hence one of Change UK’s biggest motivations to become a recognised political party is so they can stand in the upcoming European Union elections in light of a long extension of Article 50 becoming increasingly likely.
Many describe these elections as a ‘second referendum before a second referendum’ as the party may be able to use their pro-EU viewpoint to win over voters. Change UK’s sources have confirmed that although they intend to field candidates as MEPs, they are not planning to nominate candidates in local elections.
Change UK is also currently developing policy positions and a manifesto to present to voters. Whereas before, the group seemed to have completely focussed on the UK’s relationship with the EU, members have said they would “deserve to fail” if being anti-Brexit was their only policy. Moreover, in order to further formalise their party, the party has also appointed an interim leader. Former Conservative MP Heidi Allen will serve as the group’s leader, a politician who they believe will be able to pull in those without a “normal background of a politician or a special adviser.”
The possibility of an electoral alliance between Change UK and the Liberal Democrats is said to be unlikely, although it has not been explicitly ruled out. In the event of the UK participating in the European Elections, if the two join forces it is possible that we will see a strong pro-EU vote. Chuka Umunna, spokesperson for Change UK, has said the party intends to “shake up the two-party system and provide people with an alternative that can change our country for the better.” As we await the decisions of Parliament and the EU on an Article 50 extension, the future of the new party hangs in the balance.