South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen: ‘I left Change UK because it put party above country’
Heidi Allen, the South Cambridgeshire MP, has said she left Change UK because it put party interests above the country’s during the European elections in May.
Ms Allen quit the Conservatives in February to join a growing band of independent MPs in Parliament and became their interim leader when they organised themselves into a new party, Change UK - The Independent Group.
But after disappointing results in last month’s European elections - when the party secured only 3.4 per cent of the vote and failed to get a single MEP elected - Ms Allen left Change UK on Tuesday (June 4), along with Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Sarah Wollaston, Angela Smith and Gavin Shuker, to return to sitting as an independent.
Explaining her reasons, Ms Allen said that she had argued that Change UK should “collaborate with other parties” who also backed remaining in the European Union during the May elections. But instead of promoting tactical voting to fight the Brexit-supporting parties, Change UK tried “to achieve as many votes for itself as possible”.
Her second reason for quitting the party was to help recruit other MPs looking to leave their parties over Brexit, and encourage cross-party working.
She said: “Recognising that it is very difficult for MPs to leave their parties and immediately join other ones, I believe my role will be to help convene a safe neutral space in the centre ground of Parliament and offer a home for those MPs. It will allow us to work alongside the Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP, Change UK and Plaid Cymru in the national interest, ensuring we do not crash out of the EU with no deal.
“As an independent MP with a reputation for cross-party working and prioritising the national interest over party allegiance, I feel strongly that I will be able to help act as a convener.”
Change UK, meanwhile is continuing, with another former Tory - Anna Soubry - as its leader. With her are just four other MPs - Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey.
Following the decion of the others to leave, Ms Soubry said: “I’m deeply disappointed that at such a crucial time in British politics our former colleagues have made this decision.
“Now is not the time to walk away, but instead to roll up our sleeves and stand up for the sensible mainstream centre ground which is unrepresented in British politics today.
“We registered as a political party to stand in the European elections but it was never our sole purpose.
“It is vital we continue leading the fight against a damaging Brexit, pressing for a People’s Vote and being prepared to revoke Article 50 in the face of a no-deal Brexit.
“But Brexit is not the cause of our broken politics, it is a symptom of it.
“So we now look forward to providing a real choice for the public in future elections and building our policies through the evidence-led, deliberative policy making project we were planning before the European elections.”
Heidi Allen’s statement in full
When I left the Conservatives in February, it was because I could see the party had drifted to the right and was prioritising its own self preservation over the future of our country.
How could it be that the party always relied upon for fiscal responsibility and the economy, was now advocating a no deal Brexit!?
It was because of that significant change of approach that I decided to leave the Conservative party and stand instead as an Independent.
At that time, I and the 10 other colleagues who left Labour and the Conservative parties to sit as the Independent group, were incredibly well received by the public. At last, a group of MPs who were prepared to challenge the status quo and build a better kind of politics!
Early polling results gave us the confidence to formalise into a party structure, named 'Change UK' in order to be able to fight the European elections at the end of May. However, what nobody could have anticipated was how the local elections in the intermediate period would transform the landscape. The Liberal Democrats did extremely well and immediately exceeded the early support we had enjoyed in the polls.
As the interim leader of Change UK, I felt strongly that we should be advising the public to vote tactically to enable the maximum number of remain MEPs to be elected. Our polling had fallen dramatically, whilst the Brexit party was storming ahead, so I believed our focus and support should shift to other Remain parties who were now fairing better than us in the polls.
If you did not see it at the time, please see my Channel 4 News interview on Wednesday May 22, where I outlined how uncomfortable I was that I had been unable to convince the majority of MPs in Change UK to back my preferred approach.
Instead, Change UK maintained its position to achieve as many votes for itself as possible, rather than collaborate with other parties. I felt collaboration would have achieved a better outcome.
Now the European elections are over, I remain unwavering in my strong belief that the country must always come first. As such, I have stepped down from Change UK and will return to sit once again as an Independent. 5 other colleagues have joined me - Sarah Wollaston, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna.
There are two principal reasons as to why I have done this.
As I have already described, I do not believe I can serve my constituents and country well if I put party interests ahead of theirs.
Secondly, the political landscape remains very volatile. In the coming weeks and months I can easily envisage MPs leave the Conservative party because they cannot tolerate a new Prime Minister who advocates a hard Brexit or no deal Brexit. Equally, there are Labour colleagues who will no longer tolerate Jeremy Corbyn‘s inability to fight as an opposition leader should.
Recognising that it is very difficult for MPs to leave their parties and immediately join other ones, I believe my role will be to help convene a safe neutral space in the centre ground of Parliament and offer a home for those MPs. It will allow us to work alongside the Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP, Change UK and Plaid Cymru in the national interest, ensuring we do not crash out of the EU with no deal.
As an Independent MP with a reputation for cross party working and prioritising the national interest over party allegiance, I feel strongly that I will be able to help act as a convener.
It is my strong belief that this is what the country needs right now.