The new break-away group of ex-Labour MPs have called themselves “The Independent Group” (TIG).
This may make sense in a narrow, Westminster, way. They are clearly not trying to capture the Labour brand by calling themselves ‘Independent Labour’ or some such. And they are leaving the door open for Tory MPs of like mind to join them.
But ‘Independent” has unfortunate connotations outside of the Westminster bubble.
First, and least importantly, there is a long tradition of Tories standing for local councils as ‘Independents’ when in reality they are nothing of the sort. This could cause confusion in some localities?
Second, and much more importantly, using the word ‘independent’ plays far too easily into the nationalist tropes perpetuated by UKIP and their ERG buddies. It plays into their ‘framing’, as the modern political strategy doyens would say.
They have framed the debate as between “nationalists” versus “globalists”; “somewhere” versus “anywhere”, “independence” versus “federalism”; etc.
A much better framing would be “independence” versus “interdependence”?
Human beings are interdependent – we are social animals. Despite the mythology of Robinson Crusoe, or the ‘noble savage’ of Rousseau and the “ignoble savage” of Hobbes were all wrong. People need each other. Rather, as Peter Singer brilliantly put it, ‘we were social before we were human’.
We are always were always will be in some sort of ‘social contract’ – the only question is what sort? Humans cannot survive and reproduce in isolation.
At every level of society we are interdependent. Within families, communities, nations and internationally. This is especially true of the globalised world we now live in – where prosperity, culture and the threats we face are more often transnational than not.
Within nations it is increasingly obvious that the old left-right debate about ‘state’ versus ‘markets’ is, or at least should be, superseded by the idea that what works best is state and markets.
Probably the defining issue of the new political movement represented by The Independence Group is the EU. The EU is probably the most interesting, and certainly the biggest, attempt at managing transnational interdependence on the planet. It has many faults, but it is a work in progress.
As the Brexiters are rapidly finding out the UK has no choice but to be interdependent – the myth of ‘sovereignty’ and full ‘independence’ they have sold is a mirage.
So, what the new group should be called is not an ‘Independent Party’ but an ‘Interdependence Party’?