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Former Labour and Change UK MP Chuka Umunna has joined the Liberal Democrats, saying he was “wrong” to think “millions of politically homeless people… wanted a new party”.

The Streatham MP said he had “massively underestimated just how difficult it is to set up a fully fledged new party without an existing infrastructure”.

He was one of six MPS to quit Change UK – founded in February – last week.

It gained only 3.4% of the vote in the European elections.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats – who, like Change UK, campaigned on a strongly pro-EU message – saw a surge in support, coming second after Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Mr Umunna’s move to the the Liberal Democrats brings the party’s number of MPs to 12.

The former shadow business secretary, who had previously criticised the Lib Dems for “enabling Tory austerity” during the 2010 to 2015 coalition government, acknowledged that not everyone in the party would welcome his arrival.

However, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “things have changed”, as the Lib Dems had voted against every single Conservative Budget since 2015 and had stood on an anti-austerity manifesto in the 2017 general election.

“If you want to end austerity you cannot do that if you are going to sponsor Brexit in the way that the two main parties are doing,” he added.

Mr Umunna said he had realised “there isn’t room for more than one centre ground option” in British politics, adding that he believed there were “a good handful” of Conservative and Labour MPs who knew their parties were “broken” and could also be prepared to join the Lib Dems.

The MP, who withdrew from the 2015 Labour leadership contest days after announcing his candidacy, told the Times he did not want to take sides between the two contenders to replace Sir Vince Cable as Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, adding: “I’m a newbie.” Read more

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