Three MPs – Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry – leave the Tory party to join Labour breakaway group.
The Independent Group was formed yesterday by seven former Labour MPs, including Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Chris Leslie.
Late yesterday evening Joan Ryan became the eighth MP to quit Labour and join the new group.
In a letter to Theresa May to explain their reasons for leaving the Conservative Party, they wrote: “We no longer feel we can remain in the party of a government whose policies and priorities are so firmly in the grip of the ERG and DUP.
“Brexit has re-defined the Conservative party – undoing all the efforts to modernise it. There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hardline ERG, which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy.”
The full letter reads
Dear Prime Minister,
It is with regret that we are writing to resign the Conservative whip and our membership of the Party.
We voted for you as Leader and Prime Minister because we believed you were committed to a moderate, open-hearted Conservative Party in the One Nation tradition.
A party of economic competence, representing the best of British business, delivering good jobs, opportunity and prosperity for all, funding world class public service and tackling inequalities.
We had hoped you would also continue to modernise our party so that it could reach out and broaden its appeal to younger voters and to embrace and reﬂect the diversity of the communities we seek to represent.
Sadly, the Conservative Party has increasingly abandoned these principles and values with a shift to the right of British Politics.
We no longer feel we can remain in the Party of a Government whose policies and priorities are so ﬁrmly in the grip of the ERG and DUP.
Brexit has re—defined the Conservative Party — undoing all the efforts to modernise it.
There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hard line ERG which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy.
This shift to the right has been exacerbated by blatant entryism. Not only has this been tolerated, it has been actively welcomed in some quarters.
A purple momentum is subsuming the Conservative Party, much as the hard left has been allowed to consume and terminally undermine the LabourParty.
We have tried consistently and for some time to keep the Party close to the centre ground of British Politics.
You assured us when you ﬁrst sought the leadership that this was your intention. We haven’t changed, the Conservative Party has and it no longer reﬂects the values and beliefs we share with millions of people throughout the United Kingdom.
The ﬁnal straw for us has been this Government’s disastrous handling of Brexit.
Following the EU referendum of 2016, no genuine effort was made to build a cross party, let alone a national consensus to deliver Brexit.
Instead of seeking to heal the divisions or to tackle the underlying causes of Brexit, the priority was to draw up “red lines”. The 43% were not only sidelined, they were alienated.
We ﬁnd it unconscionable that a Party once trusted on the economy, more than any other, is now recklessly marching the county to the cliff edge of no deal.
No responsible government should knowingly and deliberately inﬂict the dire consequences of such a destructive exit on individuals, communities and businesses and put at risk the prospect of ending austerity.
We also reject the false binary choice that you have presented to Parliament between a bad deal and no deal. Running down the clock to March 29 amounts to a policy of no deal and we are not prepared to wait until our toes are at the edge of the cliff.
We can no longer act as bystanders.
We intend to sit as independents alongside The Independent Groupof MP3 in the centre ground of British politics.
There will be times when we will support the Government, for example, on measures to strengthen our economy, security and improve our public services. But we now feel honour bound to put our constituents and country’s interests ﬁrst.
We would like to thank all those who have supported us and worked alongside us within our constituencies over many years. We genuinely wish our many friends and colleagues within the Party well, indeed we know many of them share our concerns.
We will continue to work constructively, locally and nationally, on behalf of our constituents.
However, the country deserves better. We believe there is a failure of politics in general, not just in the Conservative Party but in both main parties as they move to the fringes, leaving millions of people with no representation.
Our politics needs urgent and radical reform and we are determined to play our part.
Heidi Allen, MP Rt Hon Anna Soubry, MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP