Tory rebel Sam Gyimah defects to the Liberal Democrats as he blasts 'populist' Boris Johnson
Former Conservative minister Sam Gyimah has defected to the Liberal Democrats as he blasted Boris Johnson for “veering towards populism and English nationalism”.
In a blow for the Prime Minister, the People’s Vote-backing MP was revealed as the second Tory switcher to the Lib Dems at the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth on Saturday.
Mr Gyimah, one of the 21 Tory rebels kicked out of the party for voting against the Government to block no-deal on 31 October, told The Observer that centrists were being “cast out of both main parties.”
The East Surrey MP said: “I listen to ministers undermining the courts. Ministers questioning experts because their views are inconvenient for what the government is saying about no deal.
“You have a government that says law enforcement is the centrepiece of its platform, and yet says in another breath that it will pick and choose what laws it chooses to respect.
“This is in many ways undermining key pillars of our constitution and the functioning of our democracy. The issue for me is not just Brexit. It is beyond Brexit – how you conduct politics and the veering towards populism and English nationalism.”
In a statement, Mr Gyimah - who was seen as a rising star in the Tories and worked as an aide to David Cameron - hit out at the “alarming” direction of the party under Mr Johnson.
He added: “The party has become more intolerant and doctrinaire; less a broad church, more a narrow sect in which lively, open debate has been replaced by oaths of allegiance.
“I am not seeking to get the whip back. It is with great sadness that I’ve come to realise the Conservative party is no longer the party I joined. The removal of the whip was not a matter of discipline, it was a test of faith.”
'STRONGEST REMAIN PARTY'
Mr Gyimah joins ex-Conservative Phillip Lee, and a further four MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith and Sarah Wollaston, in boosting the number of Lib Dems to 18 in the House of Commons.
According to the paper, the Liberal Democrats - who continue their annual conference in Bournemouth this weekend - have updated their target seats for a snap general election and now believe up to 100 constituencies are in contention.
Writing in the Observer, party leader Jo Swinson said: “The Liberal Democrats are the strongest Remain party in the UK, and we continue to grow, adding members, councillors and MPs. When a general election comes, we will be ready for it and ready to take our clear, pro-European message to the country.”
The defection comes as Mr Johnson is due to meet EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier for a crunch meeting in Luxembourg, where he is expected to tell the pair he will not ask for an extension to the 31 October deadline.