Who are the Tories who quit and why are they joining the Independent Group?


THREE Tory MPs have quit the party over Brexit and joined a breakaway group of Labour rebels.

Here is what you need to know about the latest from Westminster.

Which Conservative MPs have quit the party?

Three pro-EU Tories revealed on February 20 they have decided to resign from the party over the PM’s Brexit policy.

They have joined the breakaway Independent Group of former Labour MPs.

The Tory rebels are:

  • Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe and a former government minister
  • Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire
  • Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes and former GP

They resigned in a joint letter to Theresa May and blamed a “shift to the right”.

They said the party was “in the grip” of the DUP and Brexiteer Tories in the European Research Group.

And they claimed Brexit had “redefined the Conservative Party -undoing all the efforts to modernise it”.

Theresa May said she was “saddened” by the decision.

The shock announcement came after rumours in Westminster that six Conservatives were ready to jump ship.

Ms Soubry, Ms Allen and Dr Wollaston were among the names whips feared could go as they had “gone quiet”.

It came hours after Joan Ryan became the eighth Labour MP to resign in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The rebels' resignation letter to Theresa May
The rebels’ resignation letter to Theresa May

Why have they joined the breakaway Labour group?

The three former Conservative MPs joining up with the eight Remainer former Labour MPs who now sit as independents.

On Monday they formed the Independent Group, which will eventually become a new centrist party.

The Independent Group tweeted: “Welcome to the Independent Group @heidiallen75 @Anna_Soubry and @sarahwollaston Both our parties are broken.

“We are going to #ChangePolitics for the better.”

Together the group now has 11 MPs – as many as the Lib Dems – and are the joint fourth largest group in the Commons.

Ms Soubry, Ms Allen and Dr Wollaston are fierce critics of Brexit and have campaigned for a second referendum.

They said they could still support the government while sitting alongside the Independent Group in Parliament.

They wrote: “We intend to sit as independents alongside the Independent Group of MPs 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 will continue to work constructively, locally and nationally, on behalf of our constituents.”

Chris Leslie with the six other Labour rebels who formed the breakaway Independent Group on February 18
PA:Press Association

What would a new party look like?

Chuka Umunna has said he and the other independents want to start a new party in time for the next election.

It would likely aim for the centre-left ground formerly occupied by Tony Blair’s New Labour.

They would pursue social democratic policies and would be against a hard Brexit, and possibly hoping to reverse Brexit altogether.

As well as Labour MPs, the breakaway party would hope to attract Lib Dems and pro-EU Tories.

But they would face a struggle to make an impact as the electoral odds are against smaller and less established parties.

Part of the reason is the first-past-the-post voting system in general elections, which favours the two biggest parties.

In 1983 an alliance of the SDP – formed by breakaway Labour politicians – and the old Liberal party won more than 25 per cent of votes nationally but only 23 seats.


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