GP politician quits government to join Independent Group

Author: Adrian O'Dowd

Former GP and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has resigned from the Conservative Party to join the newly formed Independent Group.

Dr Wollaston has joined 10 other MPs of different political backgrounds who have come together to form the Independent Group after becoming increasingly disillusioned with the existing main political parties.

The high profile GP was first elected as the MP for Totnes in 2010 and before coming into politics, she worked for 24 years as an NHS doctor including as a GP but also teaching junior doctors and medical students, and as an examiner for the Royal College of GPs.

Since 2014, Dr Wollaston has been the elected chair of the influential Health and Social Care Select Committee and, since 2017, the chair of the Liaison Committee, of all the Select Committee chairs.

In a letter posted on her website, Dr Wollaston said she was leaving the Conservative Party with regret, but said: “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 [European Research Group] and the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party]. 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 prime minister 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.

“Brexit has consumed and squandered the energy of government, parliament and our political parties.”

Dr Wollaston described her new political home The Independent Group as a “new centre grouping of independent MPs who share a common set of values” which she hoped would speak to 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”.

Other MPs who have joined the Independent Group include fellow defecting Conservative MPs Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen, and former Labour MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey and Chris Leslie

Prime minister Theresa May said on her Twitter account: “I am saddened by this decision – these are people who have given dedicated service to our party over many years, and I thank them for it.”

Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0