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Hounded out? TIG women had nothing to lose

Breakaway blues: The Independent Group of MPs pose for the cameras PICTURE: EPA

THE ‘magnificent seven’ have become ‘Ocean’s Eleven’. Linking arms, beaming to the cameras, dressed in a wash of ocean blues — the expression on their faces was one of relief.

On Monday, seven Labour MPs — including Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger — resigned from the party to sit as The Independent Group.

The split we’ve all been talking about for months has finally happened.

Since then one other Labour MP and three Conservatives — Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston — dubbed the ‘Three Amigos’ have joined them.

I couldn’t help notice, as I watched the TV coverage like everyone else, that seven of the 11 defectors were women.

In a parliament where just 32 per cent of MPs in the House of Commons are female, this feels significant.

It is hard not to escape the conclusion that the relentless abuse many of them have experienced has played a part.

Ms Berger faced a torrent of anti-Semitism so vile she had to have a police escort to the Labour Party conference, while Ms Soubry was recently surrounded by Brexit ‘yellow vest’ protesters who shouted ‘Hitler’ jibes at her. Our political discourse on social media is growing more aggressive and misogynistic.

If you already feel hounded and harassed, what have you got to lose by quitting your party and making a change?

It certainly helps explain why the overwhelming impression on the faces of the defectors was one of relief.

Of course, it’s not just women who may have been pushed to the brink by the toxic nature of our parliamentary discourse.

The quote of the week came from the chair of Gavin Shuker’s constituency Labour Party in Luton South.

‘It’s apt that Gavin is one of the seven dwarves who resigned today because he’s a political minnow,’ he said.

‘We look forward to him calling a by-election where he will be annihilated and consigned to the dustbin of history where he belongs.’

It turns out that if you tell someone to ‘f*** off’ enough times, they will.

What comes Brex for new group?

IT’S easy to get swept up in the media excitement about The Independent Group, but there are a few pretty massive hurdles ahead.

Apart from their combined despair at the direction their former parties are going, what else unites them?

The obvious answer is their opposition to Brexit (all 11 back a second referendum).

But even that could cause problems in the future. It will deter other potential defectors such as the Labour MP Ian Austin, who is deeply unhappy with Jeremy Corbyn (pictured), but against a ‘People’s Vote’.

And once parliament (finally) takes a decision on Brexit, what will their USP be?

If they are going to have any chance of long-term success at the ballot box, they need to work it out quickly.

Love from Cam, but it’s not personal

Send to all: Mr Cameron texted the same message to three Tory rebels PICTURE: REX

WHILE Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May did nothing to reach out to potential defectors, David Cameron sent an identical text to Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen.

‘Hate going on rumours but is it too late to persuade you to stay? Love and best wishes DC,’ the former PM wrote.

When one of the few big Tory beasts who contacts you at all can’t be bothered to send individual messages, you know you’re in trouble.

■ THIS week on Sophy Ridge on Sunday we will head to Streatham, Chuka Umunna’s constituency, to try and work out whether the new group has any chance of success. A whopping 79 per cent of people in the south London seat voted to Remain in the EU referendum and Mr Umunna has a significant personal profile in the area. If The Independent Group can’t cut through in Streatham, it’s hard to see where they could win.