In 2010 you, the people of the Bracknell constituency, did me the great honour of electing me to be your Member of Parliament. I was grateful to receive your increased support in 2015 and 2017.
Although I was elected as a representative of the Conservative Party, I have always been conscious that my first duty has been to represent you, regardless of whether you voted for me or not. In so doing, I have always used my best judgment as to the interests of the country and the constituency in the House of Commons.
It has become increasingly difficult for me over recent months to reconcile my loyalty to the Conservative Party with my duty to you and the Bracknell constituency, especially in respect of the government’s handling of Brexit.
Last year, I concluded that the Brexit that was being negotiated was not the Brexit that had been promised and that any viable agreement would lack the necessary support in Parliament and the country. I thought an extension was going to be necessary and that the people ought to be consulted to get their consent before proceeding with a particular version of Brexit, or not. In order to join the calls for the people to be offered such a confirmatory vote on Brexit, I resigned my role in government to return to the backbenches. It gives me no pleasure to see that my assessment at that time has come to pass.
With the appointment of Mr Johnson as Prime Minister, events have taken a more serious turn.
The new PM is actively and recklessly pursuing a policy of leaving the EU without having negotiated a deal. This policy was specifically ruled out by all sides during the referendum and has no democratic mandate. It is universally agreed, including by Brexit-supporting ministers, that it will damage our country. I visit many, many businesses and organisations in our constituency and I’ve yet to meet one who think that leaving the EU without an agreement is a good plan. To the contrary, they are usually completely opposed to the idea.
Furthermore, it was recently announced that the Government intends to shut down Parliament for five weeks, partly in an attempt to prevent elected MPs from debating Brexit and scrutinising the Government’s actions at this crucial time for our country. So much for Parliament ‘taking back control’, as was promised by the current Prime Minister during the EU referendum campaign.
Over the last two years, many of you have written to me stating that the Conservative Party no longer represents the views and values that led you to support them, and me, in previous elections. Sadly, I have now reached that same assessment. The Party has been fundamentally changed by the Brexit process. I was especially sad to see 21 of my esteemed former Conservative colleagues effectively purged from the Party for standing up for the future of their constituents.
It is therefore with a very heavy heart, but with a determination that my primary duties are to you, my constituents, and my country, that I have now decided to resign from the Conservative Whip in Parliament. I will now represent you as a Liberal Democrat, whose values, such as liberty, justice and community, I now align with much more closely than this version of the Conservative Party.
Given where we are with the political situation, we cannot be certain when the next General Election will take place. However, I can assure you all that, until that time, I am immensely proud to continue to serve you as your Member of Parliament.
Dr Phillip Lee MP