Boris Johnson could lose majority overnight as Tory MP considers defecting to Lib Dems

‘At the moment, I’m increasingly feeling politically homeless,’ Phillip Lee says

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 01 August 2019 16:20
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Tory MP Phillip Lee says he is considering whether to defect to the Liberal Democrats

A pro-EU Tory MP has said he is considering whether to defect to the Liberal Democrats, in a move that could wipe out the government’s Commons majority.

Dr Phillip Lee said he feels “politically homeless” over his party’s shift towards a no-deal Brexit following Boris Johnson’s election as Conservative leader.

The former justice minister, who has thrown his weight behind The Independent’s calls for a Final Say referendum, warned the Tories could lose voters if the party leads the UK out of the EU without a deal.

Speaking on a podcast with Tory MP Sam Gyimah, Dr Lee said he would spend the parliamentary recess “thinking a lot” about his future, when asked if he would join the Lib Dems under new leader Jo Swinson.

The move would destroy Mr Johnson’s grip on the Commons, as he holds a parliamentary majority of two, with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

If the Tories lose a key by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire on Thursday, Mr Johnson’s majority would be cut to one.

“At the moment, I’m increasingly feeling politically homeless,” Dr Lee told the On the House podcast.

“The party I joined was the party of John Major and John Major, I think, is probably feeling like this judging by his contributions in recent weeks.”

The Bracknell MP added: “For me, I’m really not comfortable about my party pushing for no-deal Brexit without proper consent of the public.

“Purely on a national interest, I think it’s wrong to do this.

“But party politically I think it’s narrowing our base in a way that I don’t see how we win elections and if you don’t win elections in a democracy you don’t have power and you can’t do things you want to do.

“It’s just simple reality, so I’m sort of sitting here, looking on and – yeah – I’m going to spend the summer thinking a lot.”

Mr Gyimah, who unsuccessfully stood for the Tory leadership, said it was his party that had changed, rather than his politics.

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Up to six Tory MPs are understood to be in talks with the Liberal Democrats about joining their ranks, while Independent MP Sarah Wollaston, a former Tory, is expected to defect to Ms Swinson’s party.

It comes as Westminster was braced for an autumn of political warfare, as Mr Johnson tries to take the UK out of the EU by 31 October, with or without a deal.

If he cannot command a majority in the Commons, the new prime minister may find himself unable to pass his Brexit plan or to deliver on his domestic policy agenda.

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