| 18.2°C Belfast

Voters react as Tory MPs quit party to join new breakaway group

Constituents have reacted to the resignations of Conservative Party MPs.

Close

(Left to right) MPs Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

(Left to right) MPs Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

(Left to right) MPs Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Voters and politicians in the constituencies held by three former Tory MPs have been reacting to the news they have left the party.

Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston have signed up to the newly formed Independent Group and appealed to other one-nation Tories to join them.

A constituent of Ms Soubry said she feels “so let down” by her decision to leave the Conservative Party.

Carol Walsh, who said she voted for Ms Soubry to become the Broxtowe MP in the last election, said the defector is “now not what we voted for”.

Business owner Mark Gatland, 40, who voted for Ms Allen in the last general election, said the South Cambridgeshire MP should stand for re-election.

He said: “I think she was voted in based on a party manifesto that she stood for and she should now step down and go for re-election as an independent.”

Mr Gatland called her decision to leave the party “unfair”, adding: “I voted for her as a Conservative.

“She’s stood for election as part of that party not particularly long ago.

“I don’t believe that it’s suddenly changed to such an extent since the last election that she now can’t stand by that.”

A Conservative South Cambridgeshire councillor said Ms Allen’s constituents might have “voted for the person, not the party”.

Heather Williams said: “She has a large majority, larger than we have had for many years, and that suggests that many people voted for the person, not just for the party.”

She added Ms Allen’s resignation was a “great loss” to the Conservative Party as “she is a very hard-working constituency MP”.

The Conservative group leader on South Cambridgeshire District Council, Peter Topping, said Ms Allen could be representing voters’ views in the Remain-voting constituency.

He said: “If you look at how South Cambridgeshire voted in the referendum, it voted pretty highly to remain so you could say Heidi is representing the views of her constituents.”

A Conservative councillor in Devon, where Ms Wollaston is MP, said her decision was “regrettable”.

The Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and skills, Rufus Gilbert, said: “It is with regret and a certain amount of understanding that I now come to hear that Sarah has chosen to leave the party.

“I wish her well but I wish she hadn’t done it.”

Conservative MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar, Ashley Fox, said he is both “sad and disappointed” by the decision the “talented” Ms Wollaston has made.

He said many activists worked hard to elect her and “will feel let down by her action”.

Mr Fox added: “I don’t bear her any malice, she has made a decision in good conscience, (but) I disagree with her.”

He said “as a matter of principle when someone changes party, they should stand down and cause a by-election”.

“I think the people of Totnes would want that but of course there is no mechanism to enforce that so I don’t expect any of the MPs who have joined the Independent Group to do that,” he said.

Conservative Associations in the constituencies of the trio of party defectors are now free to select new general election candidates, a Downing Street source said.

The source added he is not aware of any central directive for the local parties to do so.

PA