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Former Conservative MP for this constituency to vote Lib Dem

November 10, 2019 6:45 PM
By Matthew Parris in The Times

Under the headline "I'm leaving the Tories and voting Lib Dem", Matthew Parris writes in The Times on 2 November 2019 "The party I joined 50 years ago and which I've stuck by in good times and bad has been taken over by a reckless cult."

"Fifty years ago this autumn your columnist joined the Conservatives, signing up to a Tory ginger-group at university. Ten years later I was the MP for the Derbyshire constituency that remains my home. Leaving parliament more than 30 years ago, my respect for Margaret Thatcher and her party was undimmed, and I never parted company with my local Conservative association. There followed four decades of supporting the Tories through thick and thin, usually with enthusiasm, occasionally through gritted teeth and in recent months beginning to despair utterly.

The day I left parliament in 1986, however, I made a promise to myself: never would I do anything to undermine my outstanding successor, Patrick McLoughlin MP, now a Companion of Honour, whose long career as a humane, deft, steady, middle-of-the-road pro-European Tory remains a lesson in careful management.

On Wednesday Sir Patrick confirmed he will not be standing in this coming general election. This releases me from my promise. Despair is no longer enough: finally one must act. So with this column I'm leaving the Conservative Party."

"Democracy is a force, a right and necessary force, but a force to be negotiated with. Responsible Tories are not there to lick the boots of the mob but to tell people sometimes unwelcome truths. Winston Churchill never surfed the wave of popular support for appeasement in the 1930s.

And now his grandson has been kicked out of, then allowed to creep back into, the parliamentary party. And Philip Hammond, chancellor of the exchequer until what seems like only a few weeks ago, and someone who encapsulates those precautionary qualities I've just described, has been forced to stand as an independent. And valiant Antoinette Sandbach has been elbowed out and changed party. And that most careful and fastidious of Conservatives, Dominic Grieve, has been pushed beyond the Tory pale.

Raucous voices within Downing Street will say they excluded themselves. And in a sense, they did. When it becomes clear which way the wind is blowing, "count me out" may be all that's left to you. But if it's all that's left to Philip, Antoinette, Dominic, Anna Soubry, Guto Bebb, Ken Clarke, Sam Gyimah, Justine Greening, Oliver Letwin and Rory Stewart, proper Conservatives every one of them, then count me out too. Were I a voter where some of these will stand, they would have my vote. I am a conservative, not a Liberal Democrat, but will unhesitatingly vote Lib Dem this time to defeat Tory zealotry over Europe.

So should every former Tory voter who still believes it would be folly for Britain to leave the European Union. For me the die was cast when Theresa May, then Michael Gove and finally Boris Johnson embraced the argument that "more than 80 per cent of the electorate voted for a Brexit-supporting party in 2017". And Mr Johnson is right: lots of us did because we backed the Tories, not Brexit.

So learning my lesson I shall not make that mistake again. One survey suggests a third of former Tory Remainers have already decided to vote Lib Dem in the coming election, the only question being what the nearly two thirds who still plan to vote Tory could possibly be thinking."

"So here I find myself, unwilling to support a leader who is a stranger to honesty or principle and who surfs a foolish populist wave for the sake of ambition alone, leading a governing party whose centre of gravity has shifted decisively away from the broadly centrist political force Conservatism once was. Johnson has come; Johnson will finally go; most likely ambushed from the right further down the line. We all have our breaking point, but for me the time has arrived to give up hoping for a return to Tory sanity.

I shall miss Jill Ratcliffe's summer garden party. I shall miss the local association. I shall miss the nice staff in our local Conservative offices. I shall miss being on the same side as Sir Patrick. But the Tory party has crossed their Rubicon. Now I must cross mine."