THE TOXIC and twisted state of British politics mean the decision of three respected Tory MPs to team up with like-minded Labour politicians in the breakaway Independent Group will inevitably be interpreted through the narrow prism of Brexit.
In this regard, nothing has changed. Yorkshire-born Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Dr Sarah Wollaston are committed pro-Europeans whose stance will not change if and when Theresa May is in a position to put a revised Brexit deal to Parliament.
And yet they, together with their new colleagues, deserve respect for actually demonstrating the courage of their convictions rather than sitting idly by, and accepting the status quo, when the national crisis over Brexit is compounding public disillusionment about growing levels of personal animosity in politics.
They realise that they – and their families – will receive bucketloads of vitriol and worse for their decision. Like the SDP in the early 1980s, they also know that the stranglehold of the two main parties is such that there is an increased likelihood that they will be squeezed out at the next election.
But while the threat of a no-deal Brexit binds together members of this fledgling movement, individuals with much experience and expertise to offer, they are also centrists appalled at how politics is in the grip of extremists from Labour’s anti-Semites to the Brexiteer zealots on the Tory right.
And as Ms Allen said in a passionate speech which was underpinned by her deep desire for meaningful welfare reform: “If we don’t try, we are surrendering our country.”
Yet, while she was speaking in the context of Brexit, her comments will resonate all those who want politics to become more collaborative and consensual and it remains to be seen how recent political rivals can coalesce around an agreed set of principles and policies. They deserve the chance to make their new politics work (after all, with 11 MPs, they are already as big a group as the Lib Dems).
That said, the greater test is for the Tory and Labour parties – and their ability to listen and learn amid growing speculation about other MPs preparing to jump ship. And it spoke volumes that neither Theresa May, nor Jeremy Corbyn, was prepared to raise, or acknowledge, this new political force at Prime Minister’s Questions when they gave the impression that nothing has changed.
It has – and public life in Britain will be all the better if the events of this week are a turning point and lead to British politics becoming more constructive, and civilised, as a result.