Conservative MP Phillip Lee (Bracknell ) has today joined the Liberal Democrats, removing the government’s majority in the House of Commons.
He did it with some stylish timing:
Jo Swinson has welcomed him to the party, saying:
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.
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.
Here is Phillip Lee’s resignation letter focusing, no surprise, on Brexit:
Given his record on some issues, this is the most controversial of the recent Lib Dem recruits, with even some members leaving in response.
The party does though closely grill potential MP switchers over previous policy commitments and votes where appropriate. As Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael explained:
I spent about ninety minutes with Philip Lee discussing concerns about his past views and voting record. In the course of that time, I identified a number of areas of policy where I and other Liberal Democrats would have reached different conclusions in a variety of areas. We are, however, a broad-based party that accommodates a range of views. I have always regarded that as one of our great strengths. What matters at the end of the day is not just the position that we reach but the reasons for which we reach them.
Had I thought that Philip Lee’s views on matters such as marriage equality or other issues were rooted in homophobia then I would have not supported his admission to the parliamentary party. I did not find any suggestion of that in his reasoning. In fact, what I found was a very thoughtful and compassionate man who drew often on his experience as a GP in reaching positions that some people, I know, find challenging. We all know that complex and nuanced arguments are often open to selective quoting and misunderstanding.
I know, for example, that some people have been concerned at him discussing the possibility of screening of potential immigrants for Hepatitis B and HIV. I hope that this article that he authored at the time will make it clear that he approached this essentially as a public health issue.
Did I agree with every conclusion that he has reached? No. In fact, there is quite a bit with which I disagree, but if the party were to be comprised entirely of people who agree with me, then it would be a very different (and much smaller!) party.
If you sign up for my blog posts digest you’ll get a handy one-a-day email with links to all the latest posts. You can also sign up for a range of other lists, including Liberal Democrat Newswire – a monthly newsletter about the party. Just pick the options you’d like on the sign-up form.