In a shock move this afternoon, Dr Phillip Lee – MP for bracknell – defected to the Liberal Democrats.
As Boris Johnson stood at the despatch box of the Houses of Parliament, Dr Lee moved from the Conservative benches to the Lib Democrats – known in parliamentary terms as crossing the floor.
In a resignation letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dr Lee said that the decision came ‘after a great deal of thought’.
“I have reached the conclusion it is no longer possible to serve my constituents and country’s best interests as a Conservative Member of Parliament,” he wrote, adding that he had not made the decision lightly.
Dr Lee became MP for Bracknell after the deselection of his predecessor, Andrew MacKay following the expenses scandal in which MacKay and his wife, Diana Kirkbride, were found to be claiming allowances to cover the mortgage payments for both their homes. MacKay was deselected as a result.
During his time in parliament, Dr Lee served as justice minister for two years before resigning over Brexit.
It is this issue that has forced him to leave the party.
“I have had concerns over the approach and direction of the Conservative Party since the EU referendum took place in 2016,” Dr Lee said. “The Conservative Party that attracted me to join as a young man was a broad political church.
“Over the years, members have had different views on individual issues but we were all bound together by sound Conservative principles of careful governance, responsible reform, respect for the rule of law, protecting our home union and sound stewardship of the economy.”
Dr Lee felt that Brexit has lead to the party “increasingly become infected with the twin diseases of populism and English nationalism”.
He added that his decision was not personal and that there are many “good people” in the party.
“Each of us must stand and be counted and ultimately do what we think is in our country’s and constituency’s best interests. That is why I am today joining Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats.”
Dr Lee’s decision means that Johnson’s government now has no majority and is likely to collapse in the coming days.