Metro mayor James Palmer has criticised Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen for her “foolish” decision to quit the Conservative Party and called on her to trigger a by-election.
The MP for South Cambridgeshire joined Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston in quitting the Tories to join a group of eight Labour defectors who have formed The Independent Group.
The trio, who have been outspoken in their opposition of Brexit, cited the Government’s approach to leaving the EU as one of the key reasons for their decision to leave the party.
In a joint letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, they wrote: “We no longer feel we can remain in the party of a Government whose policies and priorities are so firmly in the grip of the ERG and DUP.
“Brexit has re-defined the Conservative Party – undoing all the efforts to modernise it. There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hard line ERG which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy.
“The final straw for us has been this Government’s disastrous handling of Brexit.
“Following the EU referendum of 2016 no genuine effort was made to build a cross party, let alone a national consensus, to deliver Brexit. Instead of seeking to heal the divisions or to tackle the underlying causes of Brexit, the priority was to draw up ‘red lines’. The 48 per cent were not only sidelined, they were alienated.”
They added: “The country deserves better. We believe there is a failure of politics in general, not just in the Conservative Party but in both main parties as they move to the fringes, leaving millions of people with no representation.
“Our politics needs urgent and radical reform and we are determined to play our part.”
On joining The Independent Group, they wrote: “We intend to sit as independents alongside The Independent Group of MPs in the centre ground of British politics.
“There will be times when we will support the Government, for example, on measures to strengthen our economy, security and improve our public services. But we now feel honour bound to put our constituents’ and country’s interests first.
“We will continue to work constructively, locally and nationally, on behalf of our constituents.”
Responding to the news, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer said: “It’s regrettable that Heidi Allen has felt it necessary to resign from the Conservative Party and join the new Independent Group of MPs.
“I believe this to have been a foolish decision. The Conservative Party is a broad church and its right and proper that if the Conservative Party wants to remain the party of government, this remains the case. It needs to be a party where a range of different opinions are held and where healthy debate is encouraged.
“Heidi was elected as a Conservative MP and stood on a Conservative manifesto which had at its heart fully respected the referendum result. I expect that Heidi believes she can get elected as an Independent Group MP,
“I therefore encourage her to put this to the test and to trigger a by-election. The people of South Cambridgeshire decided at the last election that they wanted a Conservative MP. They should now be given the opportunity to decide whether or not they want an Independent Group MP.
“I have read the joint resignation letter from the three MPs who have today resigned from the Conservative Party and I completely disagree with how they have drawn an equivalence between what’s happened within the Labour Party and what they claim has happened within the Conservative Party. The Labour Party has been taken over by the hard left and has given platforms to a number of deeply unsavoury characters.
“It’s a party that has been labelled “institutionally anti-Semitic” and a threat to our national security by MPs who only two days ago sat on its benches. “It’s a party that has allowed a young, pregnant Jewish MP to feel so unwelcome that she made the decision that she had no choice but to turn her back on the Labour Party after a campaign of bullying and intimidation.
“I do not recognise the “purple momentum” referred to in the resignation letter. I know all the Conservative associations of the county well and can confirm that they remain moderate broad churches where all are welcomed who subscribe to core Conservative values and principles.
“I hope Heidi enjoys her day in the limelight. In the meantime, South Cambridgeshire Conservatives need to unite and focus on ensuring that the next MP for South Cambridgeshire is a Conservative MP. I am 100 per cent with them in this endeavour.”