++ Breaking news: Sarah Wollaston joins the Lib Dems

Jo Swinson has just announced that Sarah Wollaston MP has joined the Liberal Democrats. In an email to members Jo says:

I am thrilled that Sarah has chosen to join the Liberal Democrats.

Sarah is a fierce campaigner who I have enjoyed working with in the campaign to stop Brexit and as one of the most respected Members of Parliament and brings real expertise to our team.

She is one of more than 30,000 members who have joined us since May, along with 10,000 new registered supporters in rejecting the politics of nationalism and populism, showing it is the Liberal Democrats who can deliver an alternative vision for our country.

Dr Sarah Wollaston is the MP for Totnes in Devon. She came to people’s attention as the winner of the first open primary for a Conservative PPC in 2009. Sarah worked as a GP until she was elected in 2010, and she retained her seat in 2015 and 2017.

In February she resigned from the Conservatives and joined The Independent Group/Change UK, but in June she left them to sit as an independent. However she continues to chair the Liaison Committee and the Health Select Committee.


Sarah has written a post to her constituents explaining the reasons for joining the party.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames and is a member of Federal Conference Committee.

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48 Comments

  • Yeovil Yokel 14th Aug '19 - 10:10pm

    Great to have you on board, Sarah. Parliament is going to need wise and steady voices like yours in the months ahead.

  • She is a read plus and much respected. Good news

  • Sarah Wollaston is a perfect fit with the Lib Dem’s, glad to have her on board. Maybe Heidi Allen will be next?

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '19 - 10:32pm

    Excellent!
    I posted a welcome some weeks ago.
    What took you so long?

  • Richard O'Neill 14th Aug '19 - 10:35pm

    I really like Sarah Wollaston (and saw this one coming down the road). Really pleased to see her join the party.

    But I feel obliged to say what I always say when an MP changes party (in her case this is the 2nd time in several months) that a by-election needs to be held to consult the electors with this fresh information. I know she has in the past been an advocate of just such an action.

    Of course there may be an general election in a month or so, but equally we may not have one until 2022.

  • Chris Williams 14th Aug '19 - 10:37pm

    The Lib Dems will be calling a bi-election asap, I presume?

  • Richard O’Neill and Chris Williams: If you read her website you will see that she is calling for a General Election, which rather trumps a by-election.

  • This is fantastic news, having someone with Sarah’s experience and knowledge as part of the team is a testament to the inroads our party is making and the ability of Jo to broaden the appeal of the Liberal Democrats as a home for those dissatisfied with the big two.

  • Mary Reid. Having just read Ms Wollaston’s Wikipedia page, I believe you may have a little trouble defending that position as when calling for defectors to submit themselves for re-election Ms Wollaston never mentioned ‘calling for a General Election’ as a reason not to hold one.

  • Devon has a Lib Dem MP once again! Good news all round.

  • Richard O'Neill 14th Aug '19 - 11:04pm

    @Mary Reid

    It totally does trump it, and is what the country needs. But it isn’t in her power to deliver a general election in the next two months, which may well not happen. However she does have the power to call a by-election. A win in it, highly likely, would surely just boost the party further.

    Like I say, I’m a big fan of Sarah Wollaston. I’d just like this to become a convention for all MPs changing party. And she has shown support for such a view in the past.

  • The rate this is going we will soon have more female than male MP’s. Well that would be a first for a party in Westminster (well one with more than one MP, I accept technically the Greens have won that title).

  • Hugely welcome news, am sure this is a natural fit and together we can see Sarah through the next election to retain her seat and keel her expertise in parliament

  • Good news. Sarah is very impressive. And NB she helps tilt the gender balance of our MPs a bit more towards 50/50 as well. After the 2017 election we had 4 women out of 12. Now we have 6 out of 14. That’s an increase from 33% to 43%. If we can just get Heidi Allan over the line and then get Laura Gordon elected in Sheffield Hallam we’ll have cracked it! 8=).

  • These new Lib Dems can’t, as Chuka did tonight on Newsnight, claim they’ll do anything to stop a no-deal Brexit, then refuse to countenance supporting a short-lived, temporary majority (not even technically a govt) that can force a GE. And all because of some clash ,not over the shared objective, but over the leader involved. No-deal would rightly be seen, as being the result of petty and deeply shallow behaviour.

  • Paul Barker 15th Aug '19 - 3:52am

    A warm welcome to our newest MP, hopefully not the last to join us from The Dinosaur Parties.
    There is a widespread assumption that a General Election is coming very soon, its hard to see a Government with a Majority of 1 lasting another 3 Years.
    Corbyns latest statement does seem to indicate a shift in The Labour position & warrants careful consideration.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Aug '19 - 6:48am

    Andy,
    Corbyn proposes a very dangerous route involving a General Election that could well be won by the Tories. Our policy is I believe to have a referendum before any General Election.

    The parliamentary maths do not look great for that given the splits in the Labour Party over a referendum, but someone has to take votes off the Tories if we are going to stop Brexit via a General Election and getting into bed with Corbyn as anything other than a last resort is not going to do that. Relying on the Faragists to stop the Tories is also very risky.

  • So we head for No Deal because tge Tories wanted an unattainably perfect deal and the Lib Dems wanted an unattainably perfect referendum?

    At some point the grown ups in all parties are going to have to realise that perfection is an illusion, and make the best of what we have. We can stop a No Deal by supporting the Corbyn plan. Work the GE to our advantage as best we can, and use our numbers to soften the form of any Brexit and influence the terms of the resulting referendum to make it more winnable.

    Or we could just get in a huff about JC holding the cards and watch Johnson push us into No Deal.

    When push comes to shove, what do we really want? To do all we can to stop Brexit or just carp from the sidelines? Haven’t we been criticising JC for doing that these past few years?

  • An excellent extremely competent M.P.who will bring much needed expertise on poverty and benefits (and we certainly need that). Also, a very decent human being who will probably get re-elected.

    And at last we seem to be getting a bit more professionalism in dealing with these matters….. a steady drip drip of recruits timed to get publicity. No doubt the next one will be at the Conference….. or even before.

  • Amazing how an elected politician can change their political allegiance just to get elected. Kicked out of the Conservative party .Unable to get enough votes to get elected by being an independent or with Change UK so switches to Liberals in the hope of securing enough votes to get re elected in an election. Is this really the type of politician that will get you votes .

  • @ TERRY “Kicked out of the Conservative party “.

    Actually, no.

  • John Peters 15th Aug '19 - 9:18am

    @Mary Reid

    It’s within her power to call a by-election. It’s not within her power to call a general election.

  • Corbyn needs to grow up and realise that he does not command support to form even a caretaker government. I’ve just heard Anna Soubry come out and echo Swinson’s comments on this. He needs to live in the real world. Someone like Margaret Beckett or Hillary Benn may well be able to achieve this.

    Hopefully someone like Tom Watson will vocalists we this point publicly and put pressure on Corbyn to get out of the way.

  • Richard Elliott 15th Aug '19 - 9:29am

    Great News – lets hope it continues with more MPs. On the Corbyn leading a national unity govt question – its not just that we don’t like his politics but that it is unlikely to work as the necessary 20 Tory MPs would not back it – full stop. Plus the media saying we back Corbyn would be adverse in any forthcoming GE affecting the unite to remain by putting off liberal tory voters.

  • How many MPs would change party if they had to fight a by election ?

  • Alex Macfie 15th Aug '19 - 9:37am

    To those who are saying Sarah Woolaston should resign and call a by-election, as far as electoral law is concerned we elect individuals. If we decide that, as a matter of principle, we elect the party rather than the individual, then the whole concept of a “constituency MP” goes right out of the window. It also does away with the case for having by-elections at all, and we should instead have a formal mechanism whereby a representative who resigns or dies is automatically replaced by someone from their original party. Why, if votes are just for parties, should voters get a special opportunity to change the party that represents them just because (for whatever reason) the representative of the party they originally voted for can no longer perform that role.
    Also establishing the principle that defecting MPs should resign and stand again would give too much power to party machines. The party could simply withdraw the whip from any MP who steps out of line to trigger a by-election and likely get rid of the rebel.

  • @Richard O’Neill, @John Peters, it is in her power to vote for a VONC, which might be a very close vote, but she can’t, if she resigned before that. And if she resigned after a successful VONC, a possible by-election would be anyway overtaken by a general election.

    Read what she has to say: “My in-box also has messages from some who ask if I am calling a by-election in Totnes.

    The answer is straightforward; I will be backing an election in Totnes by voting no confidence in the government at the earliest opportunity.

    99.86% of the population had no choice whatsoever about our current Prime Minister and I believe the whole electorate deserves a say.

    It is a general election that is needed, not just a by-election, and it needs to take place before we leave the EU”

    https://www.libdems.org.uk/sarah-join

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '19 - 9:40am

    TonyH: “If we can just get Heidi Allan over the line and then get Laura Gordon elected in Sheffield Hallam we’ll have cracked it!”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_Allen
    JO SWINSON IS SPEAKING LIVE ON BBC NEWS NOW.

  • Sandra Hammett 15th Aug '19 - 9:41am

    Unfortunately in the event of ANY form of election she would probably lose her Totnes seat.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '19 - 10:08am

    Heidi Allen campaigned for Jane Dodds in Brecon and Radnorshire
    She would be more than welcome to join us, but the timing is for her to decide, as Jo Swinson and Chuka Umunna have said.
    Chuka pointed out that he is a former Labour MP and said on Newsnight on 14/8/2019 that “about 10-15 Labour Party MPs” would not vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. He said that is different from saying that they would not vote against Boris Johnson’s government in a vote of (confidence or) no confidence.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuka_Umunna.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '19 - 10:16am

    Jo Swinson suggested the Father and Mother of the House of Commons.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Clarke
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Harman

  • The EU warned British Politicians not to waste the extra time they were being given but the time was wasted. Several options have thus been ruled out, having a Referendum before a General Election is one. That would imply a “Caretaker” Government running till next Summer at least.
    We could still have an Election before Halloween, just; we could certainly have one in November with a short extension to the Article 50 Deadline.
    I have thought about The Corbyn proposal & I just don’t see how it can work.

  • Good speech, answered questions with what she wanted to say, think she will do very well at a General Election, (second try with this simple statement!)

  • If the Corbyn plan can’t work then it’s No Deal, I’m afraid, and we have lost. It is incumbent, I believe, on us to make it work if we want to avoid that scenario.

    It is a high risk strategy to rely on a VONC and that ‘something’ positive will emerge from the aftermath. Unless and until you form an alternative government, Johnson calls the shots on the timing of a GE and it’s extremely high risk to rely on the Speaker or the Courts stopping Johnson holding the GE after 31 Oct. (In terms of thoping the Courts save the day, I haven’t seen many legal minds lining up to tell Lord Sumption that he is wrong when he says that BJ can do this). Whether we like it or not, there is no support for a second referendum absent a GE. Johnson doesn’t want it, Corbyn doesn’t want it. We don’t have the numbers in Parliament.

    So to stop No Deal you need some form of unity government. Is Corbyn going to back down now and operate under a Lib Dem suggestion to have a Tory as joint leader, even with a Labour MP? Conceivable, but I’d suggest it’s unlikely.

    You have to play to people’s motives. It suits BJ very well to continue along his path, and it suits him even more if he can say he tried to get a deal but was thwarted by Labour, Lib Dems and Remainers by them undermining his No Deal threat. It suits JC very well if we continue down the same path and we end up with a No Deal Brexit that he can blame on both the Tory Government and the Lib Dems and Greens (and SNP etc) for failing to support his attempt to stop it.

    If we go into a GE scenario where we have left the EU with No Deal, and we were in a position to have stopped it by working with Corbyn, I think the party is a busted flush. Rejoin isn’t going to be on the agenda for at least one election cycle, and if it comes to the question of who is best suited to lead us out of the ensuing mess then it’s largely going to be a bunfight between Johnson and Corbyn. We might hoover up some staunch pro-EU votes but I strongly suspect a lot of our recent momentum is built on being the party best placed to oppose Brexit/No Deal, which we will have manifestly failed to do that. And when those options aren’t there any more, what is the draw to make enough people vote for us? We’ll just be a small party that put its own principles ahead of the good of the country.

    (cont)

  • So we need a GE before Brexit to be able to best capitalise on the Stop Brexit momentum, and we’re not going to get that through any means other than getting the support of the second largest party. That party is, whether we like it or not, led by JC. So, whether we like it or not, it’s his plan we need to get behind. Our role should be to make sure it is actually a unity (and not labour) government, and that it’s limited purely to getting a GE, and getting that binding commitment to holding that referendum should the Lib Dems & Labour hold the balance of power at the end of it.

    Yes we might lose a GE and see Johnson romp home with a clear majority, but we are currently losing on Brexit anyway. And if you somehow orchestrate a referendum ahead of a GE, with a Johnson Govt and Farage’s party leading a No Deal campaign, there’s a good chance we lose that too.

    We need a GE before Brexit, we need to win as many Lib Dem seats as we can on the back of ‘Stop Brexit’ whilst we can still use that slogan, and we need to then influence the Brexit agenda from a position of greater strength.

    The only sure way of getting to that scenario is to hold our noses and support JC’s proposals and make them work. If we could hold our noses long enough to support a Tory led Coalition for all those years, I’m sure we can do the same for a few weeks to stop what we keep telling everyone is the greatest threat to our nation’s prosperity since whenever. We might take some damage but what is more important, avoiding reputational damage to the party or avoiding No Deal?

    We are being outmanoeuvred and boxed in by the two main parties. We can fight to the death waving our little EU flags, or we can grasp the lifeline that JC’s proposals offer.

    We have run out of time. 31 October folks. 31 October.

  • No one seems to understand that No Deal is a negotiating position and essential to get the best deal. I am aware that some people want No Deal as an end in itself which of course strengthens the hand of the UK Government.

  • Peter Martin 15th Aug '19 - 12:12pm

    Jo Swinson has said :

    “I will do whatever it takes to stop Brexit.”

    but supporting Jeremy Corbyn as PM?

    No I won’t do that!

  • Dan M-B is right. On a parallel thread, I suggest a constructive way in which the Lib Dems could work with Corbyn, accepting that he holds most of the cards, but not all:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/watch-jo-swinsons-keynote-speech-on-how-mps-can-stop-boris-61738.html#comment-506303

    One supposedly crucial objection to the Corbyn Plan is that he wants a GE, not a second referendum. Well, what of that?

    A second referendum might well deliver a narrow Remain vote, while leaving Johnson in power. What would the Tories do? They might call “best of three”, they might vow to campaign for Brexit at the 2022 Election and in the mean time play bull-in-a-china-shop with trade policy (e.g. we have let chlorinated chicken flood into the EU single market, fancy throwing us out of the EU do you Ms von der Leyen?), they will certainly push right-wing populism and alliance with Trumpism. Not a wonderful outcome, even if we win the second referendum, which Cummings is now well placed to prevent by foul means or fouler.

    Or we can go along with what Corbyn wants, and have a GE instead. That would, of course, take the place of a second referendum. We would make it clear that a Lib Dem vote is a vote to cancel Brexit, and a vote for Labour or the Tories is not. I think we would do rather well. Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn, having got his wish for a GE, might wish he had been more careful about what he had wished for. He would have to define this semi-mythical “Labour Brexit”, and the differences between A customs union and THE customs union, against ridicule from all sides, including many of his own troops. The biggest risk would be a complete Labour collapse that would let Johnson sneak back in on a minority vote.

    Neither way out of No Deal Brexit is simple. On balance I’d say, if Corbyn prefers an election, let’s go with that – it may well also be the least-worst option for the country, and for the Lib Dems as a party.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '19 - 6:19pm

    Martin 15th Aug ’19 – 8:19am No doubt she’ll be joining Labour in the next few months.”
    You really should withdraw that comment, it is unworthy.
    As a general election candidate she was chosen by the entire local electorate and not by the local conservative members.
    The Tiggers have mostly recognised that launching a new nationwide party is difficult. Chuka is one such.
    She has demonstrated that she is a very thoughtful person, not an ideologue.
    Sandra Hammett 15th Aug ’19 – 9:41am
    How can you possibly know?
    Do you live in Totnes?
    Do you have inside information from the Tory Party?
    Do you want to declare an interest?

  • Richard Underhill 16th Aug '19 - 10:44pm

    15th Aug ’19 – 10:16am Ken Clarke MP has said that he would not mind being PM.
    Wed 14th August 2019 – 10:06 pm I was happy in the evening, unusual but pleasant.

  • David Allen 17th Aug '19 - 1:00am

    “Jo Swinson suggested the Father and Mother of the House of Commons.”

    So, tired Ken turns to exhausted Harriet, and plaintively enquires “How did we ever manage to propagate 648 bastards?”

  • Richard Underhill 17th Aug '19 - 8:46am

    David Allen 17th Aug ’19 – 1:00am: Explain to Boris, in Latin if necessary, that the Roman republic had two Consuls simultaneously to prevent an abuse of power by one. There was a provision to have only one, temporarily, in times of extreme crisis, called a “dictator”. There is a modern equivalent in the Belfast agreement, which he ought to read and value, that the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are, in practice, co-equal. Boris should not be allowed to play with matches. The Good Friday agreement has brought PEACE IN OUR TIME. The Irish government and the Irish lobby in the USA will not allow it to be undermined or damaged, nor should the UK.

  • Peter Martin 17th Aug '19 - 7:56pm

    I’m just wondering if you know quite what you’re getting in the Sarah Wollaston package.
    Lets take a look at her voting record:

    * Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices.
    0 votes for, 5 votes against.

    *Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.
    0 votes for, 15 votes against.

    *Consistently voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support.
    4 votes for, 0 votes against.

    * Consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.
    48 votes for, 0 votes against.

    *Almost always voted for raising the threshold at which people start to pay income tax
    26 votes for, 0 votes against.

    *Generally voted against a right to remain for EU nationals already in living in the UK Show votes
    0 votes for, 13 votes against
    This is just appalling! Even the Brexit Party wouldn’t want to throw out EU nationals unless they had committed some crime to justify doing that.

    There’s plenty more. This is one voting record which I might agree with but I’m surprised the Lib Dems are quite so forgiving:

    * Generally voted against UK membership of the EU
    5 votes for, 16 votes against

    https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24761/sarah_wollaston/totnes/votes

  • Richard Underhill 19th Aug '19 - 10:26pm

    Who is our spokesperson measles?

  • Geoffrey Dron 20th Aug '19 - 8:25pm

    SW has been the best chair of Health SelCom for last 25 years.

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