We have been calling for a realignment of politics for decades. I have welcomed the courageous move by 11 Members of Parliament to sit as independents. We now must seize the moment and maximise this opportunity to reshape British politics.
Those MPs who have defected to the newly formed “Independent Group” come from different political traditions to our own. We should respect them for being honest about the fact that their former parties no longer articulate their values. Thankfully, our party, is different and still articulates the values that we have always held. In the politics of Brexit, we agree on a lot and have a shared desire to see a People’s Vote. We shall cooperate in achieving that.
However, I want us to be open to the possibility of a shared agenda beyond the immediate Brexit debate. We will not agree on everything and where we do not agree we should not be afraid to say so. We can, however, concentrate on what unites us and how we can work together issue by issue to bring about change. I hope to work closely with The Independent Group in Parliament.
Politics, of course, is not just what happens in Westminster. As leader of this party I value enormously the work done by our parliamentarians in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Brussels and our thousands of hard working and effective councillors. We all, I believe want to seize the opportunities this moment presents to build a broad movement for change in the country and seek to maximise political representation to advance the values we share.
Together, we will need to decide how we engage with any new political force. Under our present electoral system that will mean in some cases people in different parts of the country having to take difficult decisions to avoid damaging electoral contests. However, that is clearly a matter for local parties in consultation with HQ to decide working within our established structures, while keeping our eye on the bigger electoral prize.
The overriding lesson of the week is that British politics is changing. That is good news for the country, good news for liberal, open values and good news for our party.