02:07 GMT23 February 2020
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    Amid the continued political turmoil in the UK surrounding Brexit and the uncertainty it has brought about, MPs from the Labour Party and the ruling Tory Party defected, forming a somewhat anti-Brexit group.

    Sputnik discussed the future of the Independent Group in UK politics with Professor Martin Smith, Department of Politics, University of York.

    Sputnik: The Independent Group is in talks with Britain's Electoral Commission about becoming a fully-fledged political party. How significant is this news?

    Martin Smith: Well, I think it's significant in the sense it means that they'll be an official party and they'll be able to function as a party and most importantly, stand for elections. I think the issue, the key issue, is whether they can actually be successful in elections, particularly typically given our electoral system.

    Sputnik: If we look at the Independent Group, they are a mixture of Conservative and Labour MPs, all of which you could say have very different ideas on a variety of different policies. What common ground do the MPs in the Independent Group have? And is this essentially big enough of a foundation to create a fully-fledged party?

    Martin Smith: I think is very good point. I think, I mean, clearly, they have common ground around their opposition to Brexit or at least the desire for a soft Brexit. I think that that's the one thing that holds them together. I think they also sort of have a common ground in the sense that they're all in the centre of British politics — they don't see themselves as on the left or the right. I think that you're exactly right. The problem is when they start to come down to detail policies, for instance, about taxation, that you may then find that there are differences, but of course, there may be differences or they may be covering very similar ground to the Liberal Democrats and I think that's also a problem what is their particular space within the array of political parties

    Sputnik: Many individuals were pushing for these MPs to have a by-election, on the basis that these MPs have built a strong majority with their parties. Could this recent move be considered as a way of manoeuvring in order to not go through with a by-election?

    Martin Smith: Well I think the thing is they can't be made up a by election anyway, so I don't think this makes any difference. I think calling for a by election is just part of the party game that happens every time an MP shifts from a party and it's very rare that when they do move from quality that they actually do his own and call it a by-election but every time that happens, we get this course of saying there should be a by-election. I think the interesting thing is that neither party at this moment would welcome a big solid block of by elections all at the same time because I think the outcome would be too unpredictable.

    Sputnik: Many of the things that we've seen recently with the Independent Group hark backs to the scenes, we saw the SDP. Can we see the same thing happen with the independent group even if they did create this fully-fledged party?

    Martin Smith: You have to remember that the SDP at one level, they were quite successful because in the 1983 election, they got 26% of the vote and again, it was the electoral system that prevented them from making their breakthrough. In terms of attracting support, it did very well I think you could say with the SDP, that they were able to reshape British politics in the sense that they led to the creation of New Labour and the shift back to the centre ground for the Labour Party. What's interesting actually now, is that I think two different things are going on. One is there is this, this new center group and trying to shift the parties away from the extreme but on the other side, you've got people like Tom Watson in the Labour Party actually trying to say: 'look, stay within the party because the moderate wing in the party is still important and we need to maintain that'. So in a sense, I think actually you can see that the centre group is having an effect on how the Labour Party is starting to think about itself.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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