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News | Published August 16 2019

Sarah Wollaston joins Lib Dems

Former Conservative Sarah Wollaston has become the latest MP to join the Liberal Democrats after quitting Change UK back in June.

The Totnes MP was one of three Conservative MPs, along with Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry, who left the party in February over its handling of Brexit before linking up with the Independent Group of MPs which went on to become Change UK.

Wollaston follows in the footsteps of former Labour and Change UK MP Chuka Umunna in quitting two parties to join the Liberal Democrats.

Joining the Liberal Democrats marks a change in approach for Wollaston. In our May interview, we asked her why she didn't originally join the Lib Dems. She replied: “At the time we set up, we didn’t think there was any evidence that the Lib Dems were a viable answer.”

Change UK has been forced to endure an exodus of six MPs including Umunna and Wollaston after a poor performance in the European Parliament elections back in June.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson welcomed Wollaston, saying she would bring real “expertise” to her party’s ranks.

Umunna echoed Swinson's words on BBC Newsnight, calling Wollaston’s joining “massive” and declaring that the Lib Dems are now the “biggest and strongest Remain party” in the UK.

It is certainly another major boost for the party following its success against the Conservatives in the by-election for the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency earlier this month.

The Liberal Democrats now have 14 MPs in the House of Commons, with Swinson saying she looks forward to seeing Wollaston re-elected in a general election “in months, if not weeks”.

Meanwhile, Change UK leader Anna Soubry will not be following suit in joining the Liberal Democrats, after saying her own party “offers something that adds to the centrist movement”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four, Wollaston explained her reasons for joining the Lib Dems, saying they provide the best chance of preventing a no-deal Brexit.

Wollaston praised the party’s work in “making the unequivocal case for us [the UK] to remain at the heart of Europe and tackle no deal, which would be a disaster”.

She called the Brexit deadlock a “time of national crisis” and believes people want to see a “single unified force making the case against no-deal”.

She also threw her weight behind party leader Swinson in rejecting a proposal for a caretaker government tabled by the Labour party, and in its place suggested that a “trusted figure who commands cross-party support”  should assume control on a temporary basis.


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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
@theparlreview
August 16 2019

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