independent group

The Independent Group: a breath of fresh air for contractors?

A lot can happen in a week or two, particularly when it comes to UK politics. Even with Brexit uncertainty continuing to dominate the headlines, there was still time for political mutiny on both sides of the fence, as eleven MPs in total quit the Labour Party and the Conservative Party to form the breakaway Independent Group.

The Independent Group is not a political party, not yet anyway. They do not have a leader, the structure nor the funding. But they will sit together as a group in the House of Commons and apparently share the same principles and values despite coming from different political backgrounds. Chuka Umunna, perhaps the most high profile defector, has also said the Group aims to form an official political party by the end of the year.

Until then, expect these MPs to make their stance on a number of key issues clear, including the tax system and their support of small businesses and the self-employed.

In its first statement, the Group said its “aim is to pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking on a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the parties’ interests.”

For contractors, who have felt the damaging effects of various UK Governments’ tax strategies, this will be somewhat refreshing to hear. Many independent workers have lost confidence in the current administration after the introduction of public sector IR35 reform and announcement of private sector changes, while most still haven’t forgiven the Labour Party for introducing the IR35 legislation back in 2000.

IR35 itself was enforced because the Government at the time believed contractors abused the tax system. Nearly two decades later and that same view is still arguably reflected in today’s policies, despite the fact the UK has a different political party at the helm and one that historically has been seen as the party for small business.

The potential for a new political party and one that forms policies better suited to the needs of small business and enterprise could be viewed, on the face of it, as an exciting prospect. Certainly, the Group’s pledge to “pursue policies that are evidence-based” will resonate with independent workers, whose lives are spent having to face the facts.

Contractors feel that a promise from HMRC to review the true impact of public sector IR35 reform before confirming private sector changes (which will be enforced from April 2020) was broken. There is no shortage of evidence to show that public sector reform has not increased IR35 compliance, despite the taxman’s insistence that it has.

From fears over the accuracy of CEST (HMRC’s IR35 tool) to blanket determinations made by engagers, initial reform might well have raised tax revenues, but there is limited data – if any – to demonstrate that a greater number of contractors are now correctly operating within the rules. But still, the Government pressed on and announced last November that private sector reform will go ahead.

So contractors feel let down, deceived and targeted not only by the current administration but by the one before that. Judging by Qdos research, which has shown in the past that 97% of independent workers do not believe the Government has their best interests at heart, there is an opportunity for any political party to win the support of the contractor workforce. As this way of working grows, these are voters worth attempting to win over.

Whether the Independent Group will have the initiative or understanding of the IR35 legislation to fight against further reform remains to be seen. And should it even decide to take the next step and form a political party, there isn’t much time.

Perhaps a more realistic hope is that these breakaway MPs recognise that contractors are vital to the UK economy and need genuine support, not empty pledges. It would be a smart move for the Independent Group, if and when it evolves into a party, to buck the recent political trend and devise policies that nurture this growing community of entrepreneurial individuals. Contractors’ annual economic contribution – thought to be somewhere between £125billion to £140billion – suggests it would be in the Group’s own interests to do so.

Its aim to “recognise the value of healthy debate, show tolerance towards different opinions and seek to reach across outdated divides and build consensus to tackle Britain’s problems” suggests this – for a change – is a group of politicians that could be open to new ideas.

Of course, only time will tell and we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. First, the Independent Group must become a political party in its own right. If they achieve this then perhaps change is possible after all.


  • Graham says:

    Might I suggest the author checks the tax beliefs of the individuals involved prior to getting too excited?
    The outcome is more likely to be a blanket inside IR35 judgement based upon their previous form.

  • Kent Willumsen says:

    I wouldn’t hold my breath.
    The TIG is still the estalishment trying to keep the UK in the EU even if it is against a democratic vote.
    Labour and Conservatives are the same; both parties have increased taxes on small business and hardened IR35.
    We need some real change in this country.

    • Soprano says:

      They’re a bunch of hardcore Remoaner obstructionists nearly booted from their own parties, one of which introduced this mess, the other proposing to extend it. So such aspirations are delusional. The Lib Dems and SNP are at the least aware of the issues surrounding IR35, whatever their faults may be.

  • BolshieBastard says:

    “Perhaps a more realistic hope is that these breakaway MPs recognise that contractors are vital to the UK economy and need genuine support, not empty pledges. ” LOL, the same self serving group of MPs who have quit thier respective parties because they intend to defy the will of the people and vote against Brexit? Those ‘independent group’ MP’s you mean?

    How very, very naive of CW. I wouldnt have believed it until Id seen it.

  • Mike says:

    While I appreciate the author’s optimistic view of the TIG, the truth is we dont know anything about the beliefs of the members of the TIG except that they dont want a Brexit.
    I wouldnt trust this bunch, as so far, all I have seen and heard from them, apart from Brexit, is a disdain for the electorate (read superiority complex), disdain for their erstwhile parties (read lack of teamwork) and an inability to work within real life constraints (parliamentary arithmetic, will of the people etc …).
    Would anyone here hire them as independent contractors within your own organisations ?
    If not, why would you have them as MP’s ?

    • Soprano says:

      They represent some of the worst elements in their parties. I think CW would have a better time of approaching the Lib Dems, or more free market elements of the Tories, than expecting anything out of this lot.

      Even some Labour MPs are on board when the unfairness of being taxed as (if not worse than) an employee but getting none of the rights when “deemed” to be one. My issue with them typically is that they don’t understand the benefits contracting provides to the economy and would probably want everyone to become a permie… which isn’t much of a solution, either.

  • Rob says:

    Contractor weekly has shown its remain bias in many articles so it is no surprise that it has thrown its weight behind TIG. However, TIG is nothing more than the most arrogant self serving bunch of individuals. It is very much set up for the 1%, a party for the few not the many. Contractor weekly is a good website and while political opinion is fine (let’s face it the Tory’s have done their best to hit contractors so deserve a bashing) I would suggest that this should be based in fact. TIG are not interested in contractors, just themselves.

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