One thing that baffles me about this wave of Labour and Tory defections to the new Independent Group is that we're in a hung parliament situation, and yet journalists seem largely incurious about the elephant in the room - the potential implications for the date of the next general election. I gather that the three Tory defectors were asked today how they would vote on a no confidence motion, but getting a clear answer out of them doesn't seem to have been anyone's priority. Anna Soubry apparently said "the last thing people want is a general election", which echoes something that Chris Leslie said the other day almost as a casual aside. That leads me to suspect the Independent Group is going to act as a "crossbench" rather than an "opposition" group, and abstain on no confidence votes. And because there are still significantly more Labour defectors than Tory, that would push a general election further away, because it would give Theresa May a DUP-proof majority that she didn't have before.
That said, there are plenty of important votes other than no confidence motions, and if a shrunken Tory parliamentary party makes it increasingly difficult for Theresa May to get her routine business through the House, an early general election might become likely anyway. There's also the possibility that the Independent Group are just looking for some time to get organised as an election-fighting machine, and at that point will magically become bullish about bringing the government down.
There's a paradox here for the Labour defectors: obviously they'll be pleased the group has grown today, but as a vehicle for destroying Corbynism, the group suddenly looks somewhat less effective than it did yesterday. It can no longer be said that the split is caused by the uniquely awful problem of having Jeremy Corbyn as leader of a major party, and the sharing around of political pain between Labour and Tory will give Corbyn much-needed cover he didn't have before. Now that the new group is no longer a "Labour moderates' retreat" but a mixed-DNA proto-party incorporating clear centre-right elements and apparently happy to prop up a Tory government for now, mainstream Labour MPs are going to find it harder to resist pressure from activists to attack their former colleagues and treat them as turncoats and ultimately as political opponents.
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For anyone worried about the outside chance of the SNP being overtaken as the third-largest group in the Commons, bear in mind that they have a close relationship with the four Plaid Cymru MPs, and it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that an agreement could be reached to form a joint group of 39 (probably in return for allowing Liz Saville Roberts to lead at PMQs every few weeks). In fact I believe I'm right in saying that the SNP and Plaid used to form a joint group in the Commons, but that seems to have quietly fallen by the wayside at some point.
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Another classic Mike Smithson comedy moment today: he said that "four times as many" Tory MPs have now defected to the new group than defected to the SDP. Which means he's claiming that 0.75 Tory MPs joined the SDP. (In case you're wondering, there was one Tory MP defector to the SDP - Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, who long after losing his seat in 1983 ended up joining Labour under Tony Blair.)