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Umunna admits mistakes as he joins the Liberal Democrats

ALL CHANGE: Chuka Umunna has joined the Liberal Democrats

CHUKA UMUNNA has refuted suggestions that his recent actions have been opportunistic after it was announced that he has joined the Liberal Democrats a week after leaving newly formed political party Change UK.

The MP for Streatham said that he had chosen to join the party, which he had previously heavily criticised, because of shared values, including the Liberal Democrats stance on Brexit.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Umunna said: “I’m a social democrat with liberal values, I believe in a free and fair society, a mixed economy that is fair to all and I’m unapologetically an internationalist, which is why I think we need to stay in the European Union – those are Liberal Democrat values.”

He denied that his decisions were opportunistic.

“Ultimately, if what you’re concerned about is your career and political security, you don’t leave one of the main parties. If you do, you are literally putting everything on the line,” he said on the programme.

Responding to his previous criticism of the Liberal Democrats, Umunna had said he could never forgive the party for enabling Tory austerity, he said: “Well, the thing that has given me pause for thought definitely has been the time that the Liberal Democrats served in coalition and the austerity but things have changed since then.

“The Liberal Democrats have voted against every single Conservative budget since 2015, they stood on an anti austerity 2017 manifesto saying they would do things like reversing housing benefit and universal credit cuts and look if you want to end austerity, you cannot do that if you’re going to sponsor Brexit in the way that the two main parties are doing and the Liberal Democrats have been clear about this from the very start that they not only want a people’s vote but to remain in the European Union and that’s absolutely fundamental.”

Umunna has faced considerable criticism for setting up a new party, abandoning it and then joining another in the space of weeks.

Owen Jones said: "Chuka Umunna has just joined the Lib Dems, two years after saying he couldn't forgive what they've done to his area and couldn't countenance suggesting voters back them.

"He's been a member of three political parties this year. He should stop insulting his voters and call a byelection."

Anna Soubry, leader of Change UK, previously described Umunna's departure from the party as a "serious mistake".

Defending his actions, Umunna said: “There are two things that I’ve learnt from the last few months. I think first of all I massively underestimated just how difficult it is to set up a fully fledged new party without an existing infrastructure that proved impossible to do.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Twickenham Vince Cable, who held a joint press conference with Umunna this afternoon, described him as a "great asset" to the party.

Umunna admitted that he wrongly thought people in the UK wanted a new party but has since realised “what people actually wanted us to do...is to actually work together in the centre ground with existing forces to build the strongest possible vehicle to take our politics forward”.

The MP has reiterated that the country’s system of two party politics was broken and said that lots of politicians know that their parties are "broken and dysfunctional".

He also said that he believed a “good handful” of politicians from both the Labour and Conservative parties are prepared to defect but appreciated that it was a “huge thing” to do.

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