INTERVIEW: Dr Sarah Wollaston MP talks with The Parliamentary Review
With the European elections in sight, we spoke with Dr Sarah Wollaston MP from Change UK to find out what she and her party hope to achieve in these elections and in British politics more generally.
As politicians campaign feverishly in the run-up to the election, their schedules become understandably busy. Despite this, Sarah found the time to discuss her take on things with The Parliamentary Review.
She told us that the goal of Change UK in these EU elections is to “maximise the unequivocal Remain vote, first and foremost”.
My position is that I’m absolutely not going to vote in a way that inflicts the consequences for health, social care, research and public health on my constituents.
“We also want to have MEPs who turn up and are positive participants, rather than turning up and ranting in an unconstructive way – that’s not the way you get the most for your region.”
“Where are the positive messages in this campaign about the benefits of Europe, giving people the chance the reflect genuinely on the positives? That’s what we should be doing.”
Sarah believes Brexit will cause profound harm to the UK’s economic prospects – and it’s on this basis, even at the risk of losing her seat, that she has taken up this fight.
“My position is that I’m absolutely not going to vote in a way that inflicts the consequences for health, social care, research and public health on my constituents.”
“I’d rather revoke. That may not win me votes, but I simply cannot look people in the eye and vote in a way that puts them out of their job.”
When asked how Brexit should be carried out, she responded: “Like many other European countries, we should have a referendum on the initial principle and then when you’ve actually got what the defined position is, you go back and ask the people for confirmation if that’s what they meant.”
Her thoughts on the prime minister’s conduct: “What the prime minister has discovered too late is that you can’t build consensus at the end of a process; you have to build it from the beginning. With these repeated failures, we’re wasting time.”
With a name like "Change UK", I felt the obvious question to ask Sarah was what sort of change she's hoping for.
Millions of people feel that neither of the main parties represent them
“We wanted to have a party that is centre ground, that is interested in progress, that is interested in evidence-led policy and working with the public through bodies like Citizen Assemblies.”
The two main parties, she said, are veering further and further into the extremes. The result, according to Sarah, is “millions [of people] who feel that neither of the main parties represent them.”
As to why she didn’t join the Lib Dems, she told us: “At the time we set up, we didn’t think there was any evidence that the Lib Dems were a viable answer.”
One of the concerns that Sarah had during the formation of the party was that the movement might come off as singularly focused on just parliamentary politics, “which would miss the point”.
For her, however, this is about more than party politics. As a former GP, she has her own policy interests, not least of which is healthcare. These are ambitions which she believes can be better realised through an explicitly centrist party, one that’s committed to forming policy on the basis of evidence.
It’s fair to say that her previous career as a GP sets her out from the political crowd. I couldn’t help but wonder what she made of people coming to politics from a broader range of professional backgrounds.
She told me that “having more people who bring real life experience into politics is very helpful, and I’d like to see more people encouraged to do that.”