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The third degree

Back page gossip from the 27 February issue of Research Fortnight.

The thick of it Whips at Westminster must be regretting insisting that MPs cancel their half-term holiday plans to stay and deal with the Brexit mess. Precious little progress was made on Brexit; but nine MPs resigned from the Labour Party and three from the Conservatives. Eleven of them now sit as The Independent Group in the Commons, a sort of pound shop Social Democratic Party, while proBrexit Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North, sits on his own.

The group’s star attraction is Chuka Umunna, former shadow business secretary. The MP for Streatham was the frontman for Labour’s higher education policy in the 2015 general election, including a plan to cut university tuition fees to £6,000, paid for by reducing tax relief on the pension savings of those earning more than £150,000. The strategy behind Labour’s underwhelming manifesto commitments in 2015 came to be known as, “vote Labour, get a free microwave”.

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