Dr Sarah Wollaston MP resigns from Conservative Party

This is extracted from Sarah Wollaston MP’s website:

Personal Message to Constituents from Dr Sarah Wollaston

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.


For those of us who voted for Brexit it is alarming to be considered extreme right wing by our MP. To blame the ERG for this situation is also strange as 17.4 million people voted for the actions they are proposing.

We will watch with interest as this Independent Group develops over the next months.

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  1. Dr Wollaston is absolutely right about how Brexit has developed since the referendum. And even Nigel Farrage now admits the economic price to be paid for Brexit is uncertain and could be extreme. He still thinks it’s worth it though. ButDartmouth should be in no doubt it will be affected. The first thing that families sacrifice when family budgets are tightened is holidays. And the tourist industry in Dartmouth will be decimated and the High street finally killed off

    • “The first thing that families sacrifice when family budgets are tightened is holidays…”

      Au contraire, Brian. I think Dartmouth actually stands to benefit if belts have to be tightened. Can’t afford the traditional fortnight in Sharm El Sheikh this summer? Sorry kids, it’s going to have to be a staycation in sunny Dartmouth, that’s all we can afford because of bloomin’ Brexit!

      I can’t disagree with you about the demise of the high street though. Nobody seems to be listening. Footfall is way down, the Town Council is in denial. According to them, anyone who raises concerns about about footfall in Dartmouth must be a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. The Town Council did absolutely NOTHING to try to prevent NatWest, our last bank in town, from pulling out. Now, anyone who want to do any banking in town has to queue up at a van in a car park, but only between certain narrow hours and on three out of the five weekdays. It’s Stoneage banking in the 21st Century. And we wonder why people are no longer shopping in Dartmouth. I don’t know for certain if the TC could have changed NatWest’s decision to shut the Dartmouth branch, but it would have been nice if they’d at least TRIED instead of just sitting on their hands watching while it happened!

      Regarding the delightful Dr Wollaston, everybody seems to have forgotten that she fervently campaigned IN FAVOUR of Brexit right up until the eleventh hour, when she suddenly had some kind of epiphany. Just like Paul on the road to Damascus, she suddenly saw the light! I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid! All this time I’ve spent campaigning in favour of Brexit has been for nothing! I’m such a fool! I must do a complete 180 degree turn and campaign AGAINST IT!

      What a load of rubbish. Can anyone name one single thing Dr Wollaston has done during her time as our elected member in Westminster that actually benefitted Dartmouth?

      Save our Police Station from closing? Nope!

      Save the banks from closing? Nope!

      Save our hospital from closing? Nope!

      Save the ambulance service in South Devon from being cut to the bone? Nope!

      She’s nil for four so far! If she were a football manager, she’d be holding her P45 by now!

      Tell me, what is the point of Dr Sarah Wollaston? Will anyone actually miss her when she gets booted out at the next by-election, which she will.

      Not me, that’s for sure! She’s been about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike!

      • Stuart, you claim DTC did nothing to try to stop Nat West leaving: you are wrong. It was not reported in the Chronicle but the Mayor corresponded and spoke on the telephone with the chairman of the bank. The chairman was prepared to discuss any other subject but he would not talk about closures. Okay, we failed, but at least we tried. Where, I wonder, was the Chamber of Trade in all this?

      • Stuart

        There are things our MP can do and things she cant. Dr Wollaston did speak to Michael Gove and get a million size government grant for our new academy school. And she did get some MOD reassurances the BRNC would not move to Plymouth but would stay in Dartmouth. She can urge local councils to take certain courses of action and banks not to close their local branches but reprimanding her if this fails is ridiculous. And as regards the local NHS closing our hospital, no one has the power to prevent this, even if she is chairman of the Health Select committee in parliament.

        She does however have her ear close to decision making at high levels and she can advise her constituent towns how to safeguard their future prosperity. And if the price of Brexit becomes unacceptable she has done well to change her mind and to urge us to change ours too.

  2. I think Dr Wollaston’s change of heart over Brexit was because she came to realise the economic cost of Brexit and the electorate were misled (Remember the red bus advert – £350m per week for the NHS). She is right to say that in a democracy people should be allowed to change their minds when they become fully informed. And believe me Dartmouth needs to change its mind over Brexit and pray that parliament changes too. Otherwise we are headed to becoming a residential non tourist ghost down of over 65s

  3. From her letter I don’t believe Dr Woolaston considers all those who voted to leave the EU are extreme right wing as you commented. People who voted leave did so for many reasons and it’s amazing (and somewhat arrogant) you claim that 17.4 million voters support the ERGs ‘cliff edge’ Brexit stance. This is absolutely not the case as confirmed by recent polling.

    Hopefully we will now have a confirmatory referendum in which we can ALL exercise our democratic vote whether for leave, remain or because we’ve changed our opinions now we see realities instead of promises that cannot be delivered.

    • Jon It was clear from the beginning that the EU only had to make it really difficult for us to leave in order to overturn our decision (the biggest democratic mandate in the history of the UK). Our politicians have played right into their hands with Tony Blair advising them to make it as difficult as possible MP’s trying to take no deal off the table, our only bargaining chip. The sad thing is when the vote was cast I assumed Parliament would unite to negotiate a deal on behalf of the nation. How wrong was I all MP’s have used the vote to further their own beliefs and ambitions. Sarah proposed that all MP’s who change pary should have a by-election to confirm their seat! that has gone by the wayside. I am very disappointed in her and I have campaigned alongside her to win the Paignton seat for the Conservatives. The definition of Brexit was clear in the lead up to the vote. The ERG seem to be simply asking for that version to be implemented. Our negotiations have been handled by remain supporters so it was inevitable we would end up in this position. TM has held her nerve despite the bad advice from her civil servants so we end up with the awful prospect of a no deal. I don’t support that option but to reverse the vote because of it is unacceptable. I like the analogy – if you get divorced it is very challenging but you don’t change your mind because it is difficult.

      • “Negotiations have been handled by remain supporters”. David Davis may have a reputation for being lazy and he may very well be incompetent, but he has never been a remain supporter.

  4. I appreciate your analogy of divorce Paul but suggest divorces require compromise in order neither party feels like the loser (though this probably rarely happens). But 27 other countries are bound to protect their own interests (as we are trying to do ours) and they have remained fairly consistent in ther stance and have agreed a deal. They would prefer us to stay part of the bloc and, at the very least, in it’s everyone’s interests to remain amicable.

    It’s been made clear, by business/commerce, educational and health groups (the people who know) that if we were to crash out of the EU it would spell disaster. I believe we both apprecate this. I shared your hopes that parliment would unite in our nation’s best interests. The reality though is Theresa May has devoted far more effort to placating the ERG and more right wing members of her party than she has talking with those who her more moderate (her door being closed to them).
    I think you’ll find that David Davis and those who’ve subsequently dealt with the EU in negotiations are very much ‘leavers’.

    I think those MPs who have deserted their parties to form the Independant Group have done exactly the opposite to furthering their own careers. Ultimately their actions could see them lose their jobs but they feel it more important to bring more balance to the brexit debate/implimentation.

    The definition of Brexit certainly wasn’t accurately detailed in 2016. We were told how much could be diverted to or NHS once we stopped part funding the EU. We were told we’d have 40+ international trade deals in place (next month) and we’d enjoy the ‘exact same benefits’ of membership after leaving. None of this is true. Immigration was set to reduce but has in fact increased from non EU countries as labour is needed in our country. Gaining control of our borders means, in reality, custom delays which frustrate business and could make all our lives mor difficult.

    If you feel another vote is needed where an MP hasn’t delivered on their manifesto promises then surely the same argument can be used for a second national referendum since promises made by the leave ’side’ in 2016 clearly haven’t been (nor can be) delivered. Even Jacob Rees Mogg is on record stating we should have a confirmatory vote.

    I don’t know what the outcome of a second referendum would be any more than you though I sense you fear the result of the 2016 vote would be reversed. If it were then that is surely the new will of the people and democracy in action.

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