'February 18 was a big day for the “Maleficent Seven” Labour MPs who quit to form their own “Independent Group” in Parliament – and now they are facing demands for by-elections in their constituencies.
Local Labour members who helped Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey say they were elected into Parliament on a Labour manifesto but the people of those constituencies no longer have representatives who support that manifesto. They say voters are entitled to choose whether they want to keep the MPs they have, or elect someone who means it when they say they support Labour ideals.
All in all, it was hardly an auspicious start for the group, whose members intended to use their split from Labour to highlight alleged faults in the party they were leaving.
We very soon had ample evidence that the schism was hardly prompted by recent events – the group’s website was registered in 2015… in a tax haven abroad.
The headquarters of this Brexit-opposing organisation is above a Wetherspoons pub – an organisation that supports Brexit – called, appropriately, The Unicorn.
And it turns out that this political organisation is nothing of the sort – it is in fact a company called Gemini A Ltd. This allows it to take advantage of a legal loophole that means Gemini A Ltd does not have to declare the identity of its financial backers. We don’t know who is funding these MPs.
Within hours of the new group being announced, Ms Smith had plunged it into a racism row with ill-judged remarks on the BBC’s Politics Live.
And now all seven are facing challenges to justify their claims on their Parliamentary seats.'
Read more: Independent Group’ MPs face demands for by-elections in their constituencies
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