Sarah Wollaston’s Values Fibs

New Lib Dem recruit Sarah Wollaston spent her party conference claiming “my values haven’t changed”. But Guido can reveal that the MP for Leave voting Totnes in the traditionally eurosceptic South West promised voters she would stand for ‘less interference from Europe.’ Every single time she stood in an election.

Wollaston was originally selected as a Conservative Party candidate through an open primary in 2009. She sent a leaflet to every home telling voters she was “fiercely opposed” to EU integration in a leaflet that was enclosed with that postal ballot.

At the 2010 election she called for powers to be “repatriated from Europe and told voters to beware the slide to federalism under the Liberal Democrats and their Europe policies.

In 2015 she promised that voters would get the ‘final say’ through ‘a straightforward in/out referendum’ on EU membership and in 2017 she promised to respect that result and not to ‘send us back into Europe’.

What was that about not having changed, Sarah?

Tory MPs’ People’s Vote Campaign No Longer Contains Any Tories

The second referendum campaign for Tory MPs, Right to Vote, set up by Phillip Lee, no longer contains a single Tory MP among their ranks, following multiple defections, resignations and withdrawals of the whip by the Government. Coincidentally the website and campaign have since folded…

At its height, the group contained 10 Tory MPs in its fold, however, following a record number of MPs changing party, the supposedly Conservative campaign is now led by a Lib Dem and counts four independents, one ‘The Independents’ MP and one ‘The Independent Group for Change’ MP among others. Keeping up?

The only sign the group was ever Tory-affiliated is the two remaining Tory Lords, who will be grateful that Boris said he wouldn’t withdraw the whip from any Lords supporting the Surrender Bill. A good demonstration of the change seen in British politics over the last year.

CCHQ Target Wollaston With Attack Ads

Now Sarah Wollaston has joined the LibDems she is fair game as far as her former party is concerned. CCHQ are talking, not unfairly, about betrayal and her failure to accept and respect the vote as she promised. She’ll have a fight to hold the seat, if she is even selected as the local Lib Dem candidate

Sarah Wollaston May Not Be Lib Dem Candidate At Next Election

The Liberal Democrat PPC for Sarah Wollaston’s Totnes constituency has made a less than helpful intervention on local radio, claiming no decision has been made over who will stand for the seat in an upcoming general election. Awkward…

Caroline Voaden, the understandably miffed original candidate, is currently a Lib Dem MEP for the South West. She told BBC Radio Devon that “things are very fluid” and “when the election will be… may have some colouring on who stands.”

“We can only have one candidate for Totnes. At some point a decision will be made about whether I fight the seat for Totnes or whether Sarah does, and that is a decision that the party will make, and it has not been made yet.”

Who knows, by that point Wollaston might have defected to yet another different party…

Sarah Wollaston’s Shameless Hypocrisy

Sarah Wollaston took to the airwaves this morning in her debut performance as a Lib Dem MP. This is, of course, after she was elected as a Conservative, defected to The Independent Group, rebranded to Change UK, which she then quit to sit as an independent again. Finally she has ended up as a member of the party she likened to a “whiny child” in 2012.

Wollaston has flitted from party to party with impunity, flying in the face of her original argument that defecting MPs should face by-elections. She now claims that there simply isn’t enough time to hold a by-election and her (Leave-voting) constituents deserve an MP who will work to cancel their vote. Right…

It’s worth remembering what the good doctor told her constituents when she was begging for their votes back in 2017. Where’s private prosecutor Marcus J. Ball when you need him..?

Corbyn’s Backdoor Bid to Become ‘Temporary’ PM Bombs

Jeremy Corbyn has finally made a move of sorts on Brexit, in the form of a letter to various MPs which is less about stopping no deal and more about making himself Prime Minister. Corbyn says he will “seek the confidence of the House for a strictly time-limited temporary government with the aim of calling a general election, and securing the necessary extension of Article 50 to do so.” In the same way the dictatorship of the proletariat is only meant to be temporary…?

Funnily enough opposition MPs haven’t been buying it, most importantly including Jo Swinson, who now leads 14 MPs after serial defector Sarah Wollaston finally joined the Lib Dems last night. Swinson says Corbyn is “not the person who is going to be able to build an even temporary majority in the House of Commons for this task”. This is a serious electoral headache for the Lib Dems, back Corbyn and they’ll be seriously tainted by his toxic brand, fail to back him and they’ll be accused of allowing no deal to happen. Choices, choices…

The reaction from other non-Labour opposition MPs was even less positive:

Ultimately Corbyn’s letter changes nothing, we are still fundamentally stuck in the position where Corbyn will not back anyone else for ‘temporary’ Prime Minister while there isn’t even close to a Parliamentary majority of MPs who would back him. Pundits and commentators have got a whole two weeks left of August silly season to fight out amongst themselves who the best alternative would be, the bottom line is that it’s simply not going to happen…

Tories Open Selections for Candidates to Replace TIG Defectors

Any possible routes, however unlikely, for the TIGger defectors to make shock returns to the Tories from their floundering party will soon be closed off: the Tories have just opened new candidate selections for all of their seats. CCHQ emailed the Tory candidates’ list calling for applications for nine seats including Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) and Totnes (Sarah Wollaston). Bye!

Grantham and Stanford is also being opened for applications, Nick Boles had already announced that he wouldn’t be contesting the seat again but there will still be many Tories sad to see him go. Candidates have until Monday 17th June to apply if they want to be the heir to Heidi…

TIGgers Preparing To Fight EU Elections

The Independent Group confirmed to Newsnight last night that they are in discussions with the Electoral Commission in order to become an official party and field candidates at the European Elections if the deal is voted down today. European elections are just about the best thing that could happen to the Tiggers, giving them more EU resources and a slither of electoral legitimacy…

Interestingly serial flip flopper Sarah Wollaston took a shot at proportional representation as being to blame for the disconnect between the British people and the EU. Guido isn’t so sure PR proponent and Tigger-in-Chief Chuka will be happy she said that…

UPDATE: TIG is applying to register as a political party with the Electoral Commission under the name ‘Change UK’. Guido isn’t sure what pro-Brexit campaign group Change Britain will have to say about that…

Second Referendum Crushed in ‘Major Defeat’

Sarah Wollaston’s amendment calling for a long extension to provide time for a second referendum has been crushed this evening by 334 votes to just 85. Only 326 votes are required for a majority. Even in the unlikely event that all the abstaining MPs voted in favour of the amendment it would still have lost…

Hapless second referendum campaigners had been desperately messaging each other this afternoon encouraging campaigners to stay positive in spite of the likely “deflating” result tonight that will be labelled as “a ‘major defeat.'” Of course, Guido wouldn’t dream of labelling it as anything of the sort…

TIGger Staff Exodus?

Some of the staffers of TIGger MPs seem to be unhappy with their boss’ decision to quit their respective parties. Both Chuka and Sarah Wollaston are advertising for new staff members in London, just weeks after having formed The Independent Group. Staffers are employed by individual MPs, so if an MP defects their staff have the tricky decision whether to stay or go…

In Chuka’s case, two of the six staffers he employed before he defected were paid for by external sources, one by an organisation called ‘Streatham Campaigns Ltd’, and one by the Labour Party. Hardly surprising Chuka has to advertise for more…

Tory Defections: Then and Now

The defection of the three Tory MPs to The Independents Group today has seen an outpouring of comments ranging from sadness to… sadness from their former Tory colleagues. Theresa May is “saddened”, David Cameron is “sad”, Claire Perry is “extremely sad”. All get thanks for their “dedicated service”, with the door being left open for them to return if they change their mind…

So presumably it was the same outpouring of thanks, hugs and condolences all round when Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless left for UKIP in 2014? Don’t be silly…

David Cameron branded Reckless’s decision “senseless and counter-productive” and accused Carswell of helping Labour. Carswell was accused of “betrayal”, “petulance” and “political vanity” by Tory MPs while Reckless was even sued by his former local party. All topped off with Claire “Brexit Jihadis” Perry’s ever classy “Don’t let the door hit your fat arse as you leave”…

Heidi Allen’s Desperate ‘We Haven’t Changed’ Fib To Avoid By-Elections

Earlier today, trying to wriggle out of holding people’s votes of their own constituents, Tory TIGger Heidi Allen said “We haven’t changed. What we stood on, our values, our own leaflets, our own campaigning when we stood in 2017, none of that has changed.” Except that doesn’t ring true with her campaigning in 2017…

  • Allen’s own leaflet said “we must respect the democratic outcome of the referendum and work positively together to ensure we make Brexit a success.” Even on the day of the election, Allen tweeted “I was a remainer, but the EU ref result is final and cannot be rerun.”
  • Her Tory TIGger colleague Anna Soubry also campaigned in 2017 saying she “will continue to honour the EU Referendum result. We are leaving the EU and must now get a good deal.”
  • The other Tory TIGger, Sarah Wollaston told one of her constituents in 2017 that “overall constituency voted leave 54%. I promised to respect the outcome.” Her own website informed her constituents that “Theresa May has confirmed that the Government will not seek to be in the single market. She has also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal”

Day one and they’re already in full hypocrisy mode. Fibbing through their teeth all to avoid facing the people…

UPDATE: Guido brings you Sarah Wollaston’s 2017 election hustings highlights. This is what she told her leave voting constituents when they returned her to Parliament…

And here’s Honest Heidi…

No, There Isn’t a ‘Purple Momentum’

The Tory TIGs, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston, and Anna Soubry, have claimed as a key reason for their defections was a “Purple Momentum” that is “subsuming the Conservative Party”. But is there any evidence of this or is it just an after-the event rationalisation?

Brandon Lewis today told the Conservative MPs WhatsApp group that a grand total of zero local associations have initiated deselections. The only association that comes close is Grantham and Stamford, who as far as Guido can make out are simply asking Nick Boles if he wishes to stand as a Conservative at the next election – as he has equivocated on that question in recent months. It’s not a deselection attempt if they’re actively asking you to stay on as a Conservative…

In March 2018 it was revealed that membership of the Conservative Party stands at 124,000 people. There is no evidence that this has changed significantly, despite a big membership drive from CCHQ itself. ConservativeHome did register a tiny bump in membership after Chequers was announced, of about ten new members per association. The 400,000 new Momentum flavoured members who have joined the Labour party it ain’t…

At the TIG press conference today, Sarah Wollaston referenced a “very aggressive and well funded social media campaign that is being waged against many of us, describing us as traitors, all sorts of language. The trouble is that that language has consequences, the deluge of really threatening calls that our staff have to deal with. It’s really horrible.”

No MP should receive threatening phone calls, nonetheless loopy phone calls do not amount to a ‘Purple Momentum’ deselection attempt. Sadly, all MPs receive threatening phone calls no matter what party they are in. There is no actual evidence that an infiltration has taken place beyond an entirely underwhelming Arron Banks social media campaign that was always more about self promotion than changing the Conservative Party.

The first iteration of Banks’ attempted ‘Blue Wave’ movement to infiltrate the Conservative Party has not been active since November. Now Leave.EU are trying it themselves, but to little success. Guido hears that the clickthrough rate from Leave.EU links to purchase Conservative Party membership are laughably low…

Don’t believe the ‘Purple Momentum’ bogeyman that these three Remain MPs have convinced themsleves exists. Don’t believe that Theresa May’s ‘Austerity is over’, high taxing, fiscal discipline abandoning, pro-tariff, ban-happy Conservative Party has somehow lurched to the right. It’s a convenient figment of their imaginations, all to justify their increasingly desperate quest to stop Brexit.

Tory Defectors Cross the Floor

The Tory defectors have crossed the floor to sit on the opposition benches with The Independent Group, following in the footsteps of Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler who crossed the floor to join the SDP in 1981. Auspicious…

Interestingly, the Independent Group’s press release claimed the trio had formally joined, while their own resignation letter only said they would sit “alongside” TIG and would still back the Tories in certain votes. Surely splits can’t be emerging already…

Theresa May “Saddened” by Tory Trio Breakaway

Theresa May has put out a statement in response to Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston choosing to quit the Tory Party, saying she is “saddened” by their decision. Many Tory MPs – including Brexiteers – share the same sentiments…

Three Tories ‘On the Verge of Defecting’ to Join Labour Splitters’ Group

Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen, and Anna Soubry are said to be on the verge of leaving the Conservative Party today. Rumours are swirling that the three could jump ship to join the Labour splitters’ ‘The Independent Group’ as early as in time for the start of Prime Minister’s Questions today.

This morning none of the three are responding to requests for comment about joining The Independent Group. Soubry, normally a prolific Twitter user, hasn’t tweeted since Monday morning. Tory whips last night told Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt that the three had gone “very, very silent” and yesterday Soubry failed to vote in three Commons votes, without telling her whips and despite not seeking a pair.

Wollaston and Allen have never fitted in to the Conservative Party, rebelling against the leadership since they got in to Parliament on a wide array of issues. Wollaston opposed tax cuts that even John McDonnell supported. Soubry on the other hand is aligned with the Tory Party on everything bar Brexit. Her leaving would not be something to celebrate…

Labour MP Joan Ryan’s defection last night took The Independent Group’s numbers up to eight. Three more MPs joining would make their Parliamentary group as large the Liberal Democrats…

Tory People’s Vote Campaign Loses Most of its MPs Despite Burning Through £40,000 of Dark Money

The Tory awkward squad launched their own “distinctive” People’s Vote campaign last month under the excruciatingly bad name-pun of ‘Right to Vote’. At the time of their launch Right to Vote widely claimed to have 10 Tory MPs on board, although Phillip Lee only counted eight at the launch event – Sam Gyimah, Heidi Allen, Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, Guto Bebb, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and himself.

That number appears to have shrunk even further by the time of their latest ‘intervention’ this week, with just four MPs putting their name to their letter calling for Brexit to be delayed – Gyimah, Lee, Grieve and Bebb along with two hardline Remainer Lords. They seemed so desperate for MP support that the letter even originally listed “Baroness Altmann MP” as a signatory before the amusing mishap was corrected…

Incredibly, Right to Vote have reportedly spent a whopping £40,000 so far, despite not even having a website or a Twitter account at the time they launched, and their woeful lack of impact generally. As a campaigning organisation specifically made up of members from only one party they also clearly satisfy the Electoral Commission’s definition of a ‘members association’, which means they have should have registered with the Electoral Commission and declared every donation they have received over £7,500 by now – they haven’t. By law, the public have a right to know exactly whose dark money they’ve been fruitlessly burning through…

People’s Vote Bottle People’s Vote

The People’s Vote campaign’s shambolic week has culminated in this hilarious impromptu press conference outside Parliament with the usual Remoaner cast lining up SNP-style to sorrowfully explain why they won’t be tabling an amendment calling for a second referendum next week. “Great British Hero” Philip Lee’s face is a picture…

Predictably they are trying to lay the blame at the feet of Corbyn for refusing to back a second referendum, rather than their own incompetence, or the fact that there isn’t a majority for a second referendum in Parliament or in the country. Have they ever stopped to consider why Corbyn isn’t falling over himself to join up with a campaign run by Blair, Campbell and Mandelson which is teeing itself up to become a new third party….

Owen Jones Turns on “Absolute Disaster” of People’s Vote Campaign

The People’s Vote campaign have been getting an absolute kicking overnight on the back of Alex Wickham’s big expose, following Guido’s report on the campaign infighting last month. Surprisingly, much of it is coming from the left, with Owen Jones leading the charge against it:

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of a second referendum, the official People’s Vote is an absolute disaster, has undermined the case for another vote, and if there is one and they run the Remain campaign, we might as well chalk up a second Leave victory now”

The New Statesman’s George Eaton also piled in with a quote from a ‘senior Labour insider’:

“People’s Vote campaign has a worst of all worlds strategy. It’s fronted in the media by Blairites who are deeply unpopular with voters but knew how to win stuff. Its back room is run by Milibandites who are less elitist but don’t know how to win stuff.”

Predictably, second referendum-backing MPs like Sarah Wollaston have been getting hilariously flustered by the criticism, with Steven Doughty even pinning it on a right-wing conspiracy. Including that well-known right-wing agitator Owen Jones…

Second referendum campaigners are still in denial about three basic facts – firstly there isn’t a majority in Parliament for a second referendum, as significant numbers of Labour MPs will oppose one, secondly there isn’t a majority for a second referendum in the country, as Britian’s leading pollster John Curtice exposed yesterday. Thirdly, sending Tony Blair out as your spokesman on the slopes of Davos is not going to change the first two facts in your favour…

Brexiteers Dismissive of “Facile” No-Brexit Plots

Backbench MPs have spent the weekend busy plotting how to hijack the Brexit process with the help of flagrant constitutional abuses from Speaker John Bercow. Nick Boles has now tabled an amendment this morning which would effectively legislate for a putsch by the 36-member Liaison Committee of backbench Select Committee Chairs. […] Read the rest

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Peter Mandelson tells Emma Barnett…

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