Voters react as Tory MPs quit party to join new breakaway group

Voters and politicians in the constituencies held by three former Tory MPs have been reacting to the news they have left the party.

Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston have signed up to the newly formed Independent Group and appealed to other one-nation Tories to join them.

A constituent of Ms Soubry said she feels "so let down" by her decision to leave the Conservative Party.

Carol Walsh, who said she voted for Ms Soubry to become the Broxtowe MP in the last election, said the defector is "now not what we voted for".

Business owner Mark Gatland, 40, who voted for Ms Allen in the last general election, said the South Cambridgeshire MP should stand for re-election.

He said: "I think she was voted in based on a party manifesto that she stood for and she should now step down and go for re-election as an independent."

Mr Gatland called her decision to leave the party "unfair", adding: "I voted for her as a Conservative.

"She's stood for election as part of that party not particularly long ago.

"I don't believe that it's suddenly changed to such an extent since the last election that she now can't stand by that."

A Conservative South Cambridgeshire councillor said Ms Allen's constituents might have "voted for the person, not the party".

Heather Williams said: "She has a large majority, larger than we have had for many years, and that suggests that many people voted for the person, not just for the party."

She added Ms Allen's resignation was a "great loss" to the Conservative Party as "she is a very hard-working constituency MP".

The Conservative group leader on South Cambridgeshire District Council, Peter Topping, said Ms Allen could be representing voters' views in the Remain-voting constituency.

He said: "If you look at how South Cambridgeshire voted in the referendum, it voted pretty highly to remain so you could say Heidi is representing the views of her constituents."

A Conservative councillor in Devon, where Ms Wollaston is MP, said her decision was "regrettable".

The Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and skills, Rufus Gilbert, said: "It is with regret and a certain amount of understanding that I now come to hear that Sarah has chosen to leave the party.

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The Independent Group
(back row left to right) Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Chuka Umunna and Mike Gapes, (middle row, left to right) Angela Smith, Luciana Berger and Ann Coffey, (front row, left to right) Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Joan Ryan, following a press conference for the Independent Group where the three Conservative MPs, Wollaston, Allen and Soubry, announced their resignation from the party.
File photo dated 04/10/16 of Tory MP Heidi Allen, who has resigned from the Conservative Party and joined the Independent Group.
(back row left to right) Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Chuka Umunna and Mike Gapes, (middle row, left to right) Angela Smith, Luciana Berger and Ann Coffey, (front row, left to right) Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Joan Ryan, following a press conference for the Independent Group where the three Conservative MPs, Wollaston, Allen and Soubry, announced their resignation from the party.
File photo dated 20/10/18 of MP Sarah Wollaston, who has resigned from the Conservative Party and joined the Independent Group of MPs.
Chuka Umunna and Angela Smith (foreground) with Gavin Shuker, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes and Chris Leslie (background) leave One Great George Street in London, following a press conference for the Independent Group where three Conservative MPs, Sarah Woollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry, announced their resignation from the party.
File photo dated 15/01/91 of MP Anna Soubry, who has resigned from the Conservative Party and joined the Independent Group of MPs.
Chris Leslie (standing), Angela Smith and Mike Gapes (right), who were among the seven MPs to quit Labour to sit as an independent group, in the seats next to the DUP during health questions in the House of Commons, London.
Conservative MPs (left to right) Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen, during a press conference at One Great George Street in London, following the announcement that they have resigned from the Conservative Party and joined the Independent Group of MPs.
File photo dated 05/06/2008 of Labour MP Joan Ryan, who has announced she is quitting the party and will join the Independent Group in the House of Commons.
Britain's Labour Party MP Chuka Umunna arrives at a news conference in London, Britain, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Britain's Labour Party MP Chuka Umunna makes an announcement he is leaving the party, in London, Britain, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Britain's Labour Party MP Luciana Berger arrives at a news conference in London, Britain, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Labour's Brexit stance and its handling of antisemitism has resulted in seven lawmakers leaving the party.
REFILE - QUALITY REPEAT Britain's Labour Party MP Gavin Shuker makes an announcement he is leaving the party, in London, Britain, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Former Labour party MPs Ann Coffey (Centre L), and Chuka Umunna arrive to speak at a press conference in London on February 18, 2019, where they and colleagues announced their resignation from the Labour Party, and the formation of a new independent group of MPs. - Seven MPs from Britain's opposition Labour Party on Monday announced they were breaking away and forming an independent group in protest at the party's support for Brexit and its failure to stamp out anti-Semitism. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Chuka Umunna, U.K. lawmaker, gestures while speaking during a news conference announcing his resignation from the main U.K. opposition Labour Party in London, U.K., on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Umunna is one of seven members of Parliament saying they will stand as independents after quitting the Labour Party over issues including Brexit and antisemitism. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former Labour party MP Luciana Berger (C), arrives with MPs Chris Leslie (3R), Angela Smith (2R) and Gavin Shuker, to speak at a press conference in London on February 18, 2019, where they announced their resignation from the Labour Party, and the formation of a new independent group of MPs. - Seven MPs from Britain's opposition Labour Party on Monday announced they were breaking away and forming an independent group in protest at the party's support for Brexit and its failure to stamp out anti-Semitism. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Labour MP Angela Smith who has announced her resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie and Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey (not present) and who will be known as the Independent Group.
Labour MP Mike Gapes who has announced his resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker and and who will be known as the Independent Group. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Labour MP Chukka Umunna announces his resignation from the Labour Party at a press conference on February 18, 2019 in London, England. Chukka Umunna MP along with Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Anne Coffey and Mike Gapes have announced they have resigned from the Labour Party and will sit in the House of Commons as The Independent Group of Members of Parliament. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Labour MPs (left to right) Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger and Gavin Shuker after they announced their resignations during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster and the creation of a new Independent Group in the House of Commons, in the most significant split in British politics since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s.
Labour MPs (left to right) Chris Leslie (Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, (both hidden left), Gavin Shuker, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna and Mike Gapes, after they announced their resignations during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster and the creation of a new Independent Group in the House of Commons, in the most significant split in British politics since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna speaks during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London where, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey, announced his resignation from the Labour Party and the formation of a new political party, which will be known as the Independent Group.
Luciana Berger MP arrives at a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London where she announced her resignation from the Labour party and the formation of a new political party, which will be known as the Independent Group, with six other Labour MPs who have also resigned today.
Luciana Berger stands with other Labour MPs, (left to right) Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Gavin Shuker, following a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, where they and Angela Smith and Ann Coffey, resigned from the party to create a new Independent Group in the House of Commons, in the most significant split in British politics since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s.
Labour MP Angela Smith leaves County Hall in Westminster, London where she announced her resignation from the Labour party, and the creation of a new Independent Group in the House of Commons, with six other Labour MPs who have also resigned today.
Labour MP Luciana Berger following a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, where along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker, resigned from the party to create a new Independent Group in the House of Commons, in the most significant split in British politics since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s.
Labour MP Luciana Berger speaks as she announces her resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker, and the formation of a splinter group which will be known as the Independent Group.
Labour MPs (left to right) Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna after they announced their resignations during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, to create a new Independent Group in the House of Commons.
Labour MPs Angela Smith and Gavin Shuker, listen to Chuka Umunna answering questions, after they and Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes and Chris Leslie announced their resignations during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, and the formation of a new political party, which will be known as the Independent Group.
Labour MP Mike Gapes who has announced his resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker and and who will be known as the Independent Group.
Labour MP Ann Coffey who has announced her resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie and Mike Gapes and Gavin Shuker and who will be known as the Independent Group.
Labour MP Gavin Shuker who has announced his resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie and Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey (not present) and who will be known as the Independent Group.
Labour MP Angela Smith who has announced her resignation during a press conference at County Hall in Westminster, London, along with a group of six other Labour MPs, including, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Chris LeslieAngela Smith and Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey (not present) and who will be known as the Independent Group.
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"I wish her well but I wish she hadn't done it."

Conservative MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar, Ashley Fox, said he is both "sad and disappointed" by the decision the "talented" Ms Wollaston has made.

He said many activists worked hard to elect her and "will feel let down by her action".

Mr Fox added: "I don't bear her any malice, she has made a decision in good conscience, (but) I disagree with her."

He said "as a matter of principle when someone changes party, they should stand down and cause a by-election".

"I think the people of Totnes would want that but of course there is no mechanism to enforce that so I don't expect any of the MPs who have joined the Independent Group to do that," he said.

Conservative Associations in the constituencies of the trio of party defectors are now free to select new general election candidates, a Downing Street source said.

The source added he is not aware of any central directive for the local parties to do so.

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