Sarah Wollaston MP joins Liberal Democrats after defecting from Conservatives to Change UK

The former Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has joined the Liberal Democrats, the party has announced.

The Totnes MP defected from the Tories to Change UK in February, over the Tories’ “disastrous handling of Brexit”.

She then left Change UK in June to sit as an independent.

“I am delighted to be joining the Liberal Democrats,” the 57-year-old said on Wednesday.

“I believe the best way for me to represent my constituents in Totnes is to be working as part of a fantastic team of Liberal Democrat MPs who are unequivocally making the case for us to remain at the heart of Europe, as well as campaigning for social justice, the environment and our public services.”

The former Change UK MP was welcomed with a statement from her new party leader.

“I am thrilled that Sarah has chosen to join the Liberal Democrats,” Jo Swinson said.

“Sarah is a fierce campaigner who I have enjoyed working with in the campaign to stop Brexit and as one of the most respected members of parliament and brings real expertise to our team.

“She is one of more than 40,000 people who have joined us since May in rejecting the politics of nationalism and populism, showing it is the Liberal Democrats who can deliver an alternative vision for our country.

“As the strongest party for Remainers, we will lead the fight to stop Brexit.”

Ms Wollaston is the second former Change UK MP to join the Liberal Democrats. 

Chuka Umunna, a former Labour MP, left Change UK in June and joined the Lib Dems shortly afterwards.

“Welcome to the team [Sarah Wollaston]!” Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat MP, said on Twitter.

Fellow MP Christine Jardine added: ”She will be a fantastic addition as we work to build a liberal Britain that remains in the EU when we stop Brexit.”

Ms Wollaston’s decision to leave Change UK followed disappointing election results where the fledgling party failed to make gains.

The Liberal Democrats appear resurgent and have benefited from the Brexit crisis, winning moderate voters from the Conservatives.

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Jo Swinson is also targeting some Labour voters, by exploiting the party’s perceived lack of clarity on Brexit.

Ms Wollaston struck a blow against Theresa May when she left the Conservatives alongside Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry in February, as the moderate trio helped to form the new group of independents.

The MP, who first won the seat in 2010, is expected to join Ms Swinson in London on Thursday as the 39-year-old makes her first major speech as party leader.

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