Who are the three Tory defectors?

Why MPs Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen are quitting the party

Anna Soubry

The former barrister and television presenter was a senior figure in David Cameron’s government, in which she sat in the cabinet as a business minister. Representing Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire, she has long expressed concern that Theresa May was pursuing a hard Brexit and taking the party too far to the right.

Soubry is known for being extremely outspoken, once telling television viewers that Nigel Farage looks “like somebody has put their finger up his bottom and he really rather likes it”.

As she resigned, she took aim at May over Brexit, saying:

As my friend – and he is my friend – Chuka Umunna said on Monday, you don’t join a political party to fight it and you don’t stay in it and skirmish on the margins when the truth is the battle is over and the other side has won.

The right wing, the hardline anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every leader for the last 40 years, are now running the Conservative party from top to toe. They are the Conservative party.

Dear friends and now former colleagues who share those one-nation values and principles will of course today deny it, but I believe in their heads and in their hearts they know it’s over.

And the reason they know it’s over is because we lost the referendum and Brexit now defines and shapes the Conservative party.”

She said she had not left the Conservative party but it had left her, and defended her record as a minister in the coalition government, saying it had “done a marvellous job”. Soubry also said austerity had been “absolutely necessary and I don’t have a problem with that”.

Sarah Wollaston

Wollaston is a former GP known for her centrist views within the Conservatives, after she became the first candidate in the party to win nomination via an open primary in Totnes, Devon.

She has repeatedly accused the prime minister of turning the Tories into “Blukip” and also delivered numerous warnings over NHS funding. As an independent-minded MP, she was elected to the role of the chair of the Commons liaison committee, in charge of scrutinising the work of the prime minister. Wollaston initially said she would back leaving the EU but changed her mind during the campaign and has now become an anti-Brexit campaigner. She told her constituents:

I am afraid the prime minister simply hasn’t delivered on the pledge she made on the steps of Downing Street to tackle the burning injustices in our society.

I think that what we now see is the party that was once the most trusted on the economy and business is now marching us to the cliff-edge of a no-deal Brexit.”

Heidi Allen

The MP for South Cambridgeshire has marked herself out as a moderate within the Tory party since she was elected in 2015. She took a stand against proposed welfare cuts and recently embarked on an anti-poverty tour of Britain with the former Labour MP Frank Field.

Allen said she felt “so excited, in a way I haven’t felt since I was first elected ... I, we, are prepared to dare to dream that this could be possible.”

Citing austerity as the biggest reason why she quit, Allen said:

I can no longer represent a government and a party who can’t open their eyes to the suffering endured by the most vulnerable in society, suffering which we have deepened whilst having the power to fix.”

However, she also mounted a defence of the Conservatives’ values under Cameron, saying May’s party was no longer the one she had joined.


Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

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