Dr Sarah Wollaston Quits the Tory Party

20th February 2019

Dr Wollaston MP Resigns the Conservative Party Whip

Dr Wollaston MP for the Totnes Constituency resigned the Conservative Party whip today and will now sit as an independent MP.  Dr Wollaston has switched to the new centre grouping of independent MPs: https://theindependent.group/

Dr Wollaston said:

‘It is with great sadness that I have today resigned the Conservative whip. This is not a decision I have taken lightly but I no longer feel that the Conservatives are the same Party that I joined a decade ago. I can no longer continue as a member of a Party which, in government, is making poor decisions that will hit the communities I represent and set back the prospects for ending austerity.

After 24 years as a front line doctor and teacher in the NHS I entered politics because I wanted to bring that real life experience to help to shape and to scrutinise policy making. I was the first Conservative candidate to be selected via a full open postal primary in which all registered voters were given a say.  In 2009 I made the case for the moderate, tolerant  centre ground of politics.  I will continue to take that approach as an independent MP working alongside other independents who share the same values.

As the Conservative Party has been dragged to the right and the Labour Party to an extreme and intolerant left, millions of people now feel that neither of our main parties represent their views and that our political system is broken.  I have been honoured to serve this constituency as a Member of Parliament since 2010 and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me.”

The final straw has been the Government’s mishandling of Brexit

Dr Wollaston’s open letter to Totnes constituents:

With regret, I have decided to resign the Conservative Party whip. I am passionate about this constituency and proud to have been the first Conservative parliamentary candidate to be selected via a full open postal primary. This gave every registered voter in the Totnes constituency, regardless of party affiliation, the opportunity to decide which Conservative candidate they would prefer. From the outset, I have made the case for a centrist, moderate and outward looking approach to our politics.  I assure you that I will continue to take that approach but will now do so as an independent MP. I will carry on working constructively with the many hard-working Conservative councillors across this constituency, for whom I have the greatest respect. My decision is no reflection on them.

However, at a national level the Conservative Party appears to have abandoned attempts to modernise or to broaden its appeal and has instead become less tolerant and more inward-looking. I can no longer remain a member of a party whose leadership has become so driven by the demands of the ERG and the DUP. I do not share their right wing values or those of the UKIP supporters who have been urged to join the Conservative Party via aggressive and well-funded social media campaigns in order to deselect moderate MPs.

The final straw has been the Government’s mishandling of Brexit. Despite the PM losing her majority, no meaningful attempt was made to reach out to heal the divisions left by the referendum or to seek a cross Party, or national consensus, on the way forward. The 48% who voted to remain are marginalised and alienated and many Leave voters have also been left exasperated by the PM’s Deal. The trade-offs and compromises in the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework mean that the Deal is a long way from the unrealistic promises made during the referendum campaign.

Brexit has consumed and squandered the energy of Government, Parliament and our political parties. That together with a shift to the right by the Conservatives has undermined efforts to tackle the ‘burning injustices’ that the PM pledged to address on entering Downing Street.

We have reached a precarious moment in our national life. Nothing has divided us like Brexit and we now face the serious prospect of crashing out of the EU in less than 40 days’ time with No Deal and no transition. This would not be a ‘clean Brexit’ as some have chosen to represent it. The serious real-world consequences would harm people not only in this constituency but across the whole of the UK and beyond. We are already seeing clear evidence of the consequences for people working in companies like Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Dyson, Fly BMI, Panasonic and for sectors like the pharmaceutical industry following the relocation of expertise and jobs with the European Medicines Agency. It is also starting to hit local businesses.

The truth is that No Deal Brexit would deal a body blow to our economy, putting jobs and livelihoods at risk as well as crushing the opportunity to reverse austerity. Having looked at the evidence of the damage it would inflict, I cannot support a No Deal Brexit and I wholly reject the PM’s false binary choice between that grim option and her own deeply flawed Deal. I have for many weeks said that I would resign the whip if No Deal became the stated policy of the Government but also that I would do so if running down the clock amounted to the same.

I believe that everyone deserves the right to examine and weigh up the pros and cons of the Deal and to have the final say in a referendum. This would offer the opportunity to confirm Brexit and proceed rapidly with implementation or to remain. Without that valid consent, I believe there will be decades of acrimony about the consequences.

The Labour Party has also changed beyond repair. It is now permanently in the grip of the hard left and tainted by its failure to root out anti-Semitism, these are some of the reasons why several of its MPs have already decided that they too must resign the whip.  I will be sitting alongside them in a new centre grouping of independent MPs who share a common set of values, The Independent Group. We agree with the millions of people who feel that neither main political party represents them and that there needs to be a new offer at the heart of our politics.

I know that being an MP is an enormous privilege and I remain hugely grateful to everyone who has supported me. I know some will now call for me to stand in a by election but neither this nor a general election would answer the fundamental question that is dividing us… for that we need a referendum on the final Brexit deal.  I will be listening carefully to views about The Independent Group and how this could develop in the future. I remain absolutely committed to this constituency.

Radio Interview

Dr Wollaston mentioned her misgivings as well as discussing some of the pressures of being a woman MP who hasn’t always fallen in line with the Conservative Party during an interview last week which can be heard on the Totnes Pulse Radio Programme (11th February edition)

  8 comments for “Dr Sarah Wollaston Quits the Tory Party

  1. 20th February 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Go to it girl, and no mistake. Sarah of the Indies.

  2. Tonia Aitken
    20th February 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Well done Sarah, though I have never and never will be a Conservative, I respect and admire your decision to publicly stand by your principles. If only more politicians would do the same the world would be a much better place.

  3. Jane
    20th February 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Right behind you Sarah, and very proud of you.

  4. Simon Harrington
    20th February 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Anybody who calls for a by-election folowing Sarah’s resignation of the Tory Whip should be reminded that she was chosen as a candidate for the Totnes Constituency in a Primary vote open to all constituents. The ex UKIP and right wing Tories who have been flocking to join the local Conservative Association in order to de-select Sarah have now been caught out. Our voting system is far from perfect but at least this is a partial victory for some sense in all this madness. I have never voted Tory and I’m proud to be your constituent , Sarah.

  5. Stu Lambert
    20th February 2019 at 10:30 pm

    I can see what you are against but, apart from a new referendum I can’t see what you are supporting. I couldn’t see it in the new group’s press conference news coverage either.

  6. Anthony Rodwell
    21st February 2019 at 10:02 am

    So the people had a vote and made a choice but what is now on offer is not the same as that which they originally voted for. So We need another ‘people’s ‘ vote.
    If that is true of the Referendum surely the same applies to the General Election?
    So why isn’t she standing in a by-election to let the people decide?

    21st February 2019 at 4:03 pm

    She should call a bye election as should the rest of the MP that have left their parties. that’s called democracy and let the voters decide.

  8. Simon Wintle
    25th February 2019 at 11:05 am

    My letter to Sarah:

    Dear Dr Wollaston,

    I read with interest your letter following the news of recent days.

    I agree with you that the Conservative party has become inward looking and intolerant, and support your decision to leave it. However, I would like to see an MP for Totnes who not only stands against the intolerance of a right-wing Tory government, but denounces the destructive and cruel policies inflicted on many ordinary people, but most especially the vulnerable elderly, young, disabled, those on benefits, the homeless, and the sick. But you won’t do that will you? Because you voted for every one of them.

    Brexit may be a defining issue, but it is not everything.

    You should be clear now to your constituents about what you do believe in, and have the courage of your convictions to put it to us in a by election. How hypocritical to suggest we must have a 2nd referendum on Brexit now there is a deal, but deny us a People’s Vote on whether we still want you as our MP now you are an independent.

    You make wild and unfounded allegations about the Labour party in your letter. It is utter nonsense to suggest it is in the grip of the hard left. You criticise it for failing to root out anti-Semitism, yet you have made no comment as far as I can see to support Baroness Warsi in her pleas to root out Islamophobia in the Conservative party, either while you were a member or since. You also made no call for your erstwhile Conservative colleague MP for Newton Abbot Anne-Marie Morris to be expelled for her abhorrent racist language for which she was temporarily suspended. Neither have you spoken out against your new Independent Group colleague Angela Smith MP for her disgraceful “funny tinge” comments just hours after resigning from Labour for supposed “racism”.

    You want to know what I think about your “Independent Group”? It’s an absolute joke. And a very bad joke, at that. It doesn’t represent anything new or refreshing in the slightest, just same old tired politics that props up the establishment and privilege at the expense of the majority.

    But prove us wrong! Show that you do support democracy, and a new set of principles by putting them to the people. Let us decide! Or don’t you think we deserve a say, because you know best?

    Yours sincerely,

    Simon Wintle

    P.S. it now comes to light that in 2011 Dr. Wollaston sponsored a bill to try to make it law that an MP who switches party should stand again in a by-election. Has she now changed her mind on this? Another example of hypocrisy.

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