Departing Conservatives told by fellow MPs they are making ‘a big mistake’

The departing Conservatives have been told they are making “a big mistake” by their former colleagues, as MPs from across the house have reacted to their decision to join the Independent Group.

Former Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles said the move is “expected, sad, and ultimately a big mistake for the individuals”.

Fellow Conservative Grant Shapps said the situation is “sad” and rejected suggestions that the departees are putting constituents first.

He tweeted: “They’ve wrongly concluded colleagues who support #Brexit are not putting constituents first! #Remain or #Leave doesn’t define whether you’re a moderate!”

Scottish Labour’s Danielle Rowley condemned the other members of the Independent Group for working with the three former Conservatives.

“How people who once called themselves Labour can cosy up next to the likes of (Anna) Soubry, smiling and laughing, is absolutely beyond me,” she tweeted.

“I guess we now know how their policies and values differ from Labour.”

Conservative MP Nicky Morgan said that she is “very sorry” to lose Ms Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston from her party.

She tweeted: “Any political party should be a broad church and we should regret losing three such talented women from the Conservative Party.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd tweeted: “Great shame to have lost the commitment and undeniable talent of three Conservative colleagues.

“I look forward to continuing to work with them on a number of important issues, including a Brexit deal that works for the whole country.”

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, praised the three MPs’ “brave” move.

“Kudos to the brave MPs who have left the broken Conservative and Labour parties,” she tweeted.

Independent Group MPs
Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston as they join the Independent Group of MPs (House of Commons/PA)

“Our country deserves better than this national shambles of a Government.”

The party’s leader Sir Vince Cable said his party “will hold out the hand of friendship to the independent MPs with whom we already have a good working relationship”.

“In the short term we must focus on securing a People’s Vote, with an option to stay in the EU,” he added.

The Independent Group welcomed the three to the party, tweeting: “Both our parties are broken. We are going to #ChangePolitics for the better.”

Chuka Umunna, one of eight Labour MPs to have formed the breakaway group, said he is “delighted” the former Conservative MPs have followed suit.

I am saddened by this decision – these are people who have given dedicated service to our party over many years, and I thank them for it.

— Theresa May (@theresa_may) February 20, 2019

MP John Lamont of the Scottish Conservative Party tweeted a photo of the Independent Group sitting together in the House of Commons, commenting they “seem to be enjoying their new seats”.

Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: “I am saddened by this decision, these are people who have given dedicated service to our party over many years, and I thank them for it.

“I am determined that under my leadership the Conservative Party will always offer the decent, moderate and patriotic politics that the people of this country deserve.”

Mrs May cited the UK’s exit from the EU as a “source of disagreement”, but said she would continue to deliver it.