Chuka Umunna joins the Lib Dems with more anti-Brexit MPs set to follow

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty ImagesLib Dem MP Chuka Umunna.
  • Chuka Umunna has joined the Liberal Democrats.
  • Umunna, the former Labour Party and Change UK MP, will be unveiled as a Lib Dem MP on Friday.
  • The former minister launched Change UK earlier this year but admitted on Thursday that he was “wrong” to believe that British people wanted a new political party.
  • Former Change UK MPs Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston are also close to joining the Lib Dems.

LONDON – Chuka Umunna has officially joined the Liberal Democrats having quit the Labour Party to form a new centrist party – The Independent Group/Change UK – earlier this year.

Umunna will be unveiled as a Lib Dem Member of Parliament on Friday afternoon after telling The Times newspaper that Sir Vince Cable’s resurgent party will spearhead a “new progressive movement in this country.”

He added that the party was the country’s leading anti-Brexit force and “is at the forefront of a renewed, progressive and internationalist movement in British politics that shares my values.”

Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston, who quit the Conservatives in February to join Umunna in The Independent Group/Change UK, are also close to joining the Lib Dems, sources have told Business Insider.

The Lib Dems are on a high after gaining over 700 seats at last month’s council elections and leapfrogging both the Conservatives and Labour to finish second in the European Parliament elections.

Their recent success has been fuelled by the support of Remain voters who are dismayed by the two main parties’ commitment to delivering Brexit.

Jo Swinson, who is running to replace Cable as Lib Dem leader, welcomed Umunna’s arrival, telling Business Insider: “I have worked with Chuka on the People’s Vote campaign, and I know the passion, intellect, and energy he will bring to our party, and our campaign to stop Brexit.”

Her leadership rival, Ed Davey, described Umunna as a “key player in this fight” to stop Brexit and said: “He has shown huge courage, and will make a major contribution to the Liberal Democrats.”

It is not yet clear whether Umunna will contest the seat he currently holds, Streatham, at the next general election.

Sources familiar with Umunna’s thinking said that he was considering fighting to retain his current seat.

However, he is also said to be considering replacing Vince Cable as the Lib Dem candidate in Twickenham, or standing in another seat where the Lib Dems could win, like Cheltenham in southwest England.

Layla Morgan Chuka Umunna Anna SoubryMatthew Chattle / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesLib Dem MPs Layla Moran and Chuka Umunna.

When Umunna and other MPs quit Labour to launch The Independent Group/Change UK earlier this year, they argued that a new party was necessary as the Lib Dems were in a state of terminal decline.

He admitted on Thursday that this theory was wrong, telling The Times he thought that “millions of politically homeless people that wanted a new option on the ballot paper – I was wrong on that.”

He said: “I also think I vastly underestimated the importance of having an infrastructure and existing relationships with voters, which is a point that Vince had made to me long before I actually left the Labour Party.”

Umunna has in the past also criticised the Lib Dems for their role in the Coalition government’s austerity policies.

In 2017, he said the party was “trying to bury their recent past as the enablers of Tory austerity, but working people will not forget or forgive the damage they did in government and what it is still doing to our communities.”

Umunna was among six MPs who quit Change UK last week after the party fumbled its launch and failed to win a seat at the European Parliament elections.

The remaining five MPs have been forced to change the party’s name again due to a legal dispute with petition website Change.Org. The party has applied to change its name to The Independent Group for Change.

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