The Conservatives were reeling this lunchtime as three MPs announced they have quit the party to join a group of ex-Labour MPs.
South Cambridgeshire’s Heidi Allen MP, Anna Soubry MP and Sarah Wollaston MP revealed they are leaving the party in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit stance, and will sit with the eight MPs who resigned from Labour earlier this week.
The seven MPs who formed the Independent Group earlier this week were bolstered on Tuesday night when another MP – Enfield North’s Joan Ryan – resigned from Labour to join the alliance.
However, the defections of Conservative MPs will bolster the Group’s claim they are breaking the mould of British politics.
Writing to the Prime Minister, the trio said: “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 ERG and DUP.
“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.”
Allen was first elected in 2015, and hit the headlines with a maiden speech in which she implored then-chancellor George Osborne to reverse cuts to tax credits.
A constant critic of Brexit, Allen supports another referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU.
Wollaston was elected as MP for Totnes in 2010, having won selection for the seat through an open primary.
She has been chair of parliament’s health select committee since 2014, and two years ago was made chair of the liaison committee which questions the Prime Minister.
Soubry has been a constant critic of May's Brexit strategy in recent years after becoming an MP in 2010.
Remainer Soubry and her fellow splitters said: “The final straw for us has been this government’s disastrous handling of Brexit.
“Following the EU referendum of 2016, no genuine effort was made to build a cross-party, let alone a national consensus to deliver Brexit. Instead of seeking to heal the divisions or to tackle the underlying causes of Brexit, the priority was to draw up 'red lines'. The 48 per cent were not only sidelined, they were alienated.”
Their decision reflects that of seven Labour MPs who quit leader Jeremy Corbyn's party earlier this week, saying British politics has "failed to provide the clear direction the country clearly needs".
The three Tories said today: “There is a failure of politics in general, not just in the Conservative party but in both main parties as they move to the fringes, leaving millions of people with no representation. Our politics needs urgent and radical reform and we are determined to play our part.”
As members of the Independent Group of MPs, the Conservative defectors said they will support the government on measures to strengthen the economy and public services, “but we now feel honour bound to put our constituents’ and country’s interests first”.
The Prime Minister 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.
“Of course, the UK’s membership of the EU has been a source of disagreement both in our party and our country for a long time. Ending that membership after four decades was never going to be easy.
“But by delivering on our manifesto commitment and implementing the decision of the British people we are doing the right thing for our country. And in doing so, we can move forward together towards a brighter future.”
“I am determined that under my leadership the Conservative party will always offer the decent, moderate and patriotic politics that the people of this country deserve.”