SEPTEMBER 3, 2019
Boris Johnson has officially lost his majority in the House of Commons after a Tory MP defected to the Lib Dems – right in front of his face.
The humiliated Prime Minister had to shout over roars of support today as ex-minister Phillip Lee crossed the floor of the House of Commons.
In a blistering statement Dr. Lee accused the government of “manipulation, bullying and lies” to achieve a damaging Brexit that is “putting lives at risk”. He added: “The Party I joined in 1992 is not the Party I am leaving today.”
The Tory leader is now running a minority government after the shock move by the ardent Remainer. His working majority was one. Now it is minus one.
In reality Dr. Lee, an MP of 9 years and former health minister who quit over Brexit, would already have voted against Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans regardless of party. Meanwhile there are technically ‘opposition’ MPs who will support the PM. But the shift has a huge symbolic impact.
Dr. Lee followed newly elected Lib Dem MP Jane Dodds to the opposition benches at 3.30pm today amid cheers and applause from the party’s MPs.
He took a seat next to Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson. Chuka Umunna, who defected to the Lib Dems for the Change group in June, patted Dr Lee on the arm as he sat down.
And Lib Dem education spokesperson Layla Moran, sitting on the row behind, squeezed his shoulder.
Dr. Lee said in a statement: “This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways.
“It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom.
“More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world. It is using political manipulation, bullying and lies. And it is doing these things in a deliberate and considered way.”
It comes three months after Dr Lee, who quit the Government last year over its Brexit policy, suffered a vote of no confidence by his local association.
At the time the MP – who joined Dominic Grieve in being rejected by local members – admitted at the time he “may or may not” continue serving as a Tory MP for Bracknell.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said she was “delighted” adding: “He brings almost 10 years of Parliamentary experience and decades of professional expertise. He shares our commitment to prevent a disastrous No Deal Brexit, and to stop Brexit altogether.
“The Liberal Democrats are growing. Phillip follows both Chuka Umunna MP and Sarah Wollaston MP in bravely crossing the floor to join us.”
The move came just as new Lib Dem Jane Dodds swore the oath in Welsh after deposing shamed Tory MP Chris Davies in Brecon and Radnorshire.
MP Dr. Phillip Lee’s defection statement in full
After a great deal of thought, I have reached the conclusion that it is not possible to serve my constituents’ and country’s best interests as a Conservative Member of Parliament.
Over 27 years ago I joined the Conservative & Unionist Party led by Sir John Major. Since 2010 I have had the privilege of representing the Bracknell Constituency. The Party I joined in 1992 is not the Party I am leaving today.
This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom. More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world. It is using political manipulation, bullying and lies. And it is doing these things in a deliberate and considered way. It has gone so far beyond reckless as to cease to be conservative.
I am dismayed at what the Conservative Party has become, the role that it has played in feeding division and populism, in squandering a hard-won reputation for sound stewardship, and the blinkered direction in which it has set our country. Those are not my values. I will not implicitly condone these things by being party to them.
Make no mistake: this is a time of reckoning. The challenges that our world and country face are real – but not insurmountable. We need to root how we address them in evidence and reality. Critically, we need to recognise that we will not solve climate change, counter extremism, or address our housing, health and social care needs alone. We must work with others.
The opportunities to leave a better legacy are also significant. As a united country, we need to mobilise all our innovation, creativity, power and talent – not bury it under a Brexit that does not have the British people’s informed consent. As a society, we need to rediscover the liberal and democratic traditions that made our country great. We should be guided by the values of justice, liberty and community. We must recognise our responsibilities to our people and planet: we are stewards of our country’s and our world’s limited resources.
Each generation needs to define democracy for itself and so we each have a part in shaping what we want our politics and our country to stand for. Each of us must stand and be counted.
That is why today I am joining Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats. I believe the Liberal Democrats are best placed to build the unifying and inspiring political force needed to heal our divisions, unleash our talents, equip us to take the opportunities and overcome the challenges that we face as a society – and leave our country and our world in a better place for the next generations.