STRANGE but true. The Independent Group (TIG) would be as dead as a doornail right now, were it not for yesterday’s surprising and energising entrance by the former Tory women.

Yes, I have actually written that.

Without the spirited Soubry, Allen and Wollaston, the long-awaited collapse of the British political party system was looking like a damp squib, in the wake of the car-crash launch by hamfisted former Labour MPs like Angela “funny tinge” Smith and the far from convincing Chuka Umunna.

But yesterday, the formidable trio of Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston showed Labour how to do it properly – sticking a merciless boot into Theresa May and her feeble capture by the “zealots” of the European Research Group, talking fluently and authentically about their feelings of liberation from a hollowed-out Tory Party and delivering so many quotable sound bites, the straplines on TV news bulletins were changing by the second.

READ MORE: Labour split sees calls for Scottish independence grow

The TIG 11 walked together to Millbank – the media block of offices opposite the Commons – for a revealing photocall. The Labour eight stood wooden, glum and unresponsive while the Tory three waved, smiled and looked as excited as the Gang of Four in 1983 when they quit Labour to set up the SDP and “break the mould of British politics”. At their press conference the women effortlessly did what the Labour rebels did not – they addressed the crisis facing the country over Brexit and the plight of welfare claimants facing a cruel benefits regime. What did the former Labour MPs do? They focused on internal Labour Party problems facing mostly themselves.

It’s been a stark contrast revealing a terrible truth about UK Labour – it can’t even do a more convincing party split than the Tories.

Now let’s be clear.

Straight-talking and clear-minded as Soubry, Allen and Wollaston appear to be, they are not part of any political solution for most Scots. The trio say they might vote with Theresa May on some economic issues – how will that go down with their new former Labour colleagues?

The National:

Soubry has voted against laws promoting equality and human rights. Allen voted against the right to remain for EU nationals, proportional representation and a wholly elected House of Lords. Wollaston voted against raising welfare benefits in line with prices, paying higher benefits to the long-term disabled, against a banker’s bonus tax and against a “mansion tax”.

In other words, these former Tory women talk a good game about the vulnerable and suffering, but were happy to clobber them for years, until this latest Damascene conversion to the world of caring and empathy.

But that kinda makes it worse.

The fact a bunch of Tories can easily out-communicate, out-think, overshadow and outshine the hesitant, guarded Labour refusniks who started the ball rolling, speaks volumes about the desperate state of UK politics and the pitifully limited conception of what a real alternative to “broken politics” means south of the Border.

Consider the points raised by the gang of seven (now eight) when they had the eyes of the world upon them – not Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to back a People’s Vote, which surely is the truly massive and urgent issue of the moment. Not food poverty, the cruelty of the benefits regime, massive income and wealth inequality or the curse of short-term, insecure conditions in housing, jobs and life. No, the main grievance they raised was the internal Labour Party problem of anti-Semitism.

The National:

Labour MP Ruth George had to apologise for suggesting TIG is actually backed by Israeli money. Apparently it isn’t, though since they aren’t entitled to Westminster funding, the MPs will need large donors fast or massive public support via a crowdfunder to continue. But six of the eight TIG MPs are supporters of Labour Friends of Israel – and that’s an usually high proportion. Angela “funny tinge” Smith has been critical of Labour’s policy of water nationalisation, bizarrely claiming that it could lead to the UK becoming the “dirty man of Europe” – despite the fact Scotland’s publicly owned water has a better track record than “private” England. Could that be connected to the fact she has chaired an all-party parliamentary group on water – partially funded by the water industry? Fa kens, but it doesn’t look good.

Radical ideas? Well, Chris Leslie’s pamphlet for a centrist party last year talked about closing loopholes in inheritance tax, a harmonised rate of pensions tax relief, auto-enrolment for critical illness and life insurance, and abolishing “free” masters degrees awarded by Oxford and Cambridge.

Whoop, whoop.

Already TIG looks like what it is -- old New Labourites who simply can’t abide Jeremy Corbyn. Of course they cite his “automatic” backing for Russian and Venezuelan regimes, his failure to deal with anti-Semitism and the bullying culture within his party. But it looks as if the real target is Corbyn’s “far-left” policies like abolishing student fees, nationalising rail and introducing a genuine living wage – all implemented or about to be delivered by the SNP north of the Border. We know what TIG MPs are against, but what do they really stand for?

Mind you, unlovely and even unprincipled splits can still provoke real change. A bit like Al Capone getting jailed for tax evasion instead of mafia-related crimes, the ragtag gang of 11 (at time of writing), could yet trip up Theresa May and the European Research Group and set some much bigger political wheels in motion if more heavy hitters follow. If they don’t and if Sinn Fein continues to stay away from Westminster, as they surely will, the big moves of this week won’t yet rob Theresa May of her Commons majority. Au contraire, some speculate the hopeless Tory leader now believes a snap election after Brexit would be more likely to return the Tories to power. Even if former Tory grandees like John Major believe that would simply harden opinion in Scotland and create an irrevocable move towards indyref2.

And yet, despite all this turmoil behind the scenes, there was no mention of the new grouping and all the resignations during Prime Minister’s Questions until the SNP’s Ian Blackford got to his feet. Later, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Striking how symbiotic the May/Corbyn relationship seems – collusion of silence on their imploding parties, neither showing any leadership on Brexit and each one relying on the other’s incompetence to obscure their own.”

READ MORE: Ian Blackford warns May: ‘If you don’t act on Brexit, Scotland will’


The whole debacle demonstrates the inadequacy of Westminster’s two-party system. When mutually assured destruction is in the air, with difficult issues neither party wants to raise – the blindest of blind eyes can be turned even to the biggest political developments.

In short, Labour is holed beneath the water line and the Tories are set to implode once the second meaningful vote takes place. Business as usual at Westminster.