Former St Albans district councillor defects from Tory party to join Independent Group

Former St Albans district councillor Heidi Allen. Picture: Danny Loo

Former St Albans district councillor Heidi Allen. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

A former district councillor is one of three Conservative MPs who have defected to join the new Independent Group.

South Cambs MP Heidi Allen and fellow Tories Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, joined the group of Labour politicians yesterday morning after seven MPs split from their party earlier in the week.

Mrs Allen became an MP during the 2015 General Election after around two years serving as district council representative for Marshalswick South, taking the seat from the Liberal Democrats’ sitting councillor Melvyn Teare.

The MP, who has a degree in astrophysics and once ran The Farmer’s Boy pub in St Albans, was criticised at the time for not informing residents of her parliamentary ambitions.

In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May explaining their decision, the Conservative trio told her: “We no longer feel we can remain in the party of a government whose policies and priorities are so firmly in the grip of the European Research Group and Democratic Unionist Party.

“Brexit has redefined the Conservative Party – undoing all the efforts to modernise it.

“There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hard line ERG which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy.

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“We also reject the false binary choice that you have presented to Parliament between a bad deal and a no deal.

“Running down the clock to March 29 amounts to a policy of no deal and we are not prepared to wait until our toes are at the edge of the cliff.”

Reacting to the announcement, Mrs May said: “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.”

MPs Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Chris Leslie defected from Labour to form the group on Monday, with Joan Ryan joining them yesterday.

“We intend to sit as independents alongside The Independent Group of MPs in the centre ground of British politics,” said the former Tory trio.

“There will be times when we will support the government.

“But we now feel honour bound to put our constituents’ and country’s interests first.”