Chuka Umunna joins Lib Dems after quitting Change UK

Remainer MP admits he was wrong to think a new party would thrive

Chuka Umunna
(Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Chuka Umunna, the former Labour and Change UK MP has joined the Liberal Democrats.

In a statement, the Remainer MP said he wanted to be “at the forefront” of “a progressive and internationalist movement” in British politics.

Speaking to The Times, the MP for Streatham admitted he had been “wrong” to think “millions of politically homeless people... wanted a new option on the ballot paper”.

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He added that he “vastly underestimated the importance of having an infrastructure and existing relationships with voters”.

Commenting on Umunna’s latest change of path, the BBC notes that he withdrew from the 2015 Labour leadership contest days after announcing his candidacy.

However, the MP told The Times he expects criticism along these lines. “I’ve got a pretty thick skin,” he said. “You don’t leave all of the political security of what are the two main parties if you’re out for self-advancement. And I’m not sure what more I could do to prove that I’m not, not a careerist.”

The former business secretary quit Change UK last week, after it gained only 3.4% of the vote in the European elections. In the same vote, the Lib Dems enjoyed a surge in support, finishing in second place after the Brexit Party.

Umunna said the success of the Lib Dems showed the party could be the ”spearhead” of a ”new progressive movement in this country”.

The outgoing Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable told The Times: “Chuka and I have worked together effectively for many months, campaigning for a People's Vote and to stop Brexit."

He added: “I know that he will be a great asset to our party not just on Brexit, but in fighting for the liberal and social democratic values that we share.”

Meanwhile, the two candidates to replace Sir Vince as party leader have welcomed Umunna’s arrival. Jo Swinson said: “I know the passion, intellect and energy he will bring to our party, and our campaign to stop Brexit.” Ed Davey said he would make “a huge contribution”.

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