Boris Johnson loses majority as Tory MP Phillip Lee defects to Lib Dems

3 September 2019, 15:44

Dr Phillip Lee defected to the Lib Dems, destroying Boris Johnson's slim Commons majority
Dr Phillip Lee defected to the Lib Dems, destroying Boris Johnson's slim Commons majority. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson's Government has lost its majority after Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrats.

His defection comes ahead of a key Brexit vote attempting to block leaving without a deal, and could prompt a snap general election.

The politician, who has represented Bracknell since 2010, said the Government was "aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways."

He said he felt the Lib Dems were "best placed to build the unifying and inspiring political force needed to heal our divisions."

In a statement, he said: "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.

Dr Lee continued: "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."

Welcoming Dr Phillip Lee, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said: "I am delighted to welcome Phillip to the Liberal Democrats at this crucial time.

"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.

"Today, we also welcome Jane Dodds MP to Parliament, following her recent victory in Brecon and Radnorshire.

"And these representatives join over 30,000 new members, who have joined the Liberal Democrats since our best ever results in the European Elections in May."