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Five UK MPs form new commons grouping to support independent parliamentarians

By Harriet Line, PA Political Correspondent

Five MPs have formed a new grouping in the Commons to provide administrative support to independent parliamentarians.

The Independents - including Heidi Allen, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, John Woodcock and Angela Smith - is not a new party but will seek to act as a "comfort blanket" for those who do not belong to one.

Former Tory and Change UK MP Ms Allen told the PA news agency: "When you become an independent you are just blind to parliamentary business and what's going on and being prepared for votes and it will just enable us to be a little bit more effective by having some support around us.

"I think also, given that things are still shifting massively on both the Tory and Labour sides, there may well be MPs that splinter off from either wing and they are not going to leap immediately into another political party."

She insisted the group, which does not have any policies but will provide purely administrative functions, would "not turn into a party".

"It's just a structure for organising ourselves," Ms Allen said.

Change UK, previously known as the Independent Group, formed earlier this year, but six MPs quit the party last month after it performed poorly in the European Parliament elections.

Ex-leader Ms Allen joined the exodus, alongside Sarah Wollaston, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith, with the MPs saying they would sit as independents.

Along with former Tory minister Anna Soubry, the remaining Change UK MPs are Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey.