Phillip Lee joins the Liberal Democrats

Continuing the flow of recruits to the party, 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.

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.

Here is Phillip Lee’s resignation letter focusing, no surprise, on Brexit:

Phillip Lee resignation letter

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.


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7 responses to “Phillip Lee joins the Liberal Democrats”

  1. Muddled thinking by Phillip Lee. Only when EU see we are about to leave without a deal will they agree a sensible, reasonable compromise on the Backstop

    • Antony, I truly believe this is the defence that Boris is preparing in advance. By shouting out loud that keeping no-deal on the agenda was a negotiating tool to sharpen up the members of the EU is daft. Even if that truly were the case, he’s lost the advantage by having already shown his hand! I believe he decided some time ago that he would go for a no-deal Brexit. Macron and Merkel invited him to come up with an alternative to the Backstop, and there is absolutely no evidence that he has any idea at all. He’s looking for scapegoats in the EU and those who don’t support him. What is the real agenda behind Brexit, and why are the rich and priveliged such as Farage and Rees Mogg going for it? The EU is aiming as a collective to curb tax evasion by large corporates. A no-deal Brexit would release the UK from any such commitment, giving a free hand to investors whose loyalty to the country and its people is outweighed by the opportunity to make money, including by speculating against our own currency. A no-deal Brexit will adversely the ‘ordinary’ people and the poor. It won’t hurt the rich at all. Quite the reverse. I’m sick of political games. Lets go for honesty and transparency and for making this country a great place fro EVERYBODY to live in!

  2. As the other two parties become narrower in their outlook, the Lib Dems will have to get used to welcoming people with whom we don’t entirely agree. We have lost a few members because of Philip Lee’s defection. That’s a shame, but inevitable as we become a broader church.

  3. I welcome the statement by Alistair Carmichael. I think it would be useful for members to know the procedure that’s followed when an MP from another party wishes to join the Lib Dems.
    Also, I think it would be wise to anticipate a difficult reaction when an MPs voting record seems to indicate that s/he is opposed to values we hold dear. Perhaps consulting with the Chair of Members’ groups that deal with those issues would be a good idea. We used to have only a dozen MPs so an additional 3 could possibly influence the way our MPs vote quite dramatically. An MP has so much influence when they are in the news and we don’t want that spike of publicity to be about controversy within the party so, of course, members become anxious.
    Perhaps all MPs could pin a reminder to consult members on their walls?

  4. Fully agree Sue, we need much more information about this process, and not just MPs but former councillors too. PPCs are subjected to a high degree of scrutiny and examination of their understanding of party policy. Maybe an exam after a few weeks’ settling in period. I assume this means that Dr Lee will never be leader as I don’t recall much public noise when Tim Farron was sacrificed on this same bonfire. Looking forward to Tim’s book.

  5. Interesting reading the article about screening for HIV and hepatitis. The coverage I’ve seen elsewhere implies Lee advocated turning away sick refugees, but this article makes it sound like it’s about ensuring that the NHS swings into action to ensure new arrivals can have a long and healthy life here. Am I reading that right?

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