The UK’s independent candidates fighting for political survival

BIRKENHEAD, England — They are the politicians at the heart of the U.K.’s slow motion political crack-up — now they have to win solo to stay in the game.

If the long-predicted reconfiguration of British politics under the strain of Brexit is to come to pass, watch out on election night for the success or failure of a new breed of independent candidates.

Prominent MPs, including some former ministers, who now find themselves profoundly at odds with their party leadership have either been booted out of their political home or chosen to go it alone.

That’s a huge step in a political culture and electoral system heavily dominated by two main parties. Independent candidates are not new to the British political scene, but they rarely win. And when they do, they have in the past struggled to make much of an impact in parliament.

This time might be different.

Mark Greenburgh, a former Buckinghamshire council leader who is campaigning for Grieve, said he quit the Tories when they became “uncaring, out of touch extremists.”

With both main parties shifting to the extremes and fractures beginning to appear (the last parliament ended with 36 MPs no longer in the two main parties due to them leaving or having been expelled for a variety of reasons) the U.K.’s general election on December 12 will be a defining moment. It will either shore up the cracks and so consolidate the main parties’ grip, or widen the fissures opened up by Brexit. In a highly volatile and complex series of electoral contests, the fate of independent candidates will be a good barometer of which it will turn out to be.

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