Thu, 21 Feb 2019
Newbury MP Richard Benyon has said he has no plans to quit the Conservative Party and join the newly-formed Independent Group.
Three Conservative MPs – Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen – resigned from the party yesterday (Wednesday) to join eight MPs who split from the Labour Party.
The three Tory defectors said that the "hard-line anti-EU awkward squad" had taken over the party, while Labour leavers said they could no longer tolerate anti-semitism and the "machine politics of the hard left" that had taken over the party.
Mr Benyon, who backed the defeated Remain campaign, said he had no intention of leaving the Conservative Party, adding that a focus on Brexit and anti-semitism was simplistic.
On the formation of the Independent Group, Mr Benyon said: "It's been much talked about so it's not a surprise. Obviously it's a momentous event in Westminster, quite what its repercussions will be on our political system are unclear at the moment.
"It's rather simplistic to say that this is because of anti-semitism and the actions of Momentum in Labour and because of Brexit in the Conservative Party. Undoubtedly Brexit is a major factor.
"Brexit is not a right/left issue. More Labour voters voted for Brexit than Conservative voters, if you go into the hard Labour areas in the north."
And he denied that the Conservative Party was being run by the hard line anti-EU awkward squad.
"The vast majority of Conservative MPs are not members of the European Research Group. We want to reflect the result of the referendum to achieve Brexit in a sensible way.
"We all want to get on with it and talk about other things... to say that one particular faction is calling all the shots is not true.
"It's not a right/left issue. I deeply regret that three of my colleagues have decided to leave the party. Two of the three (Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston) were friends of mine who I have worked with on many issues.
"I am saddened by their decision but I am determined that the Conservative Party will survive this. We live in a time where we need sensible one nation Conservative values to be reflected in our politics."
Mr Benyon said that Brexit had been dominating affairs and preventing other important issues, such as tackling climate change and the NHS, from being debated.
"On one level, Brexit has sucked the life out of politics in Westminster," he said. "I want, like most of my constituents, to get on with it and talk about other things."
West Berkshire voted to remain in the 2016 referendum on a 52 per cent majority, with 48,300 voting to remain and 44,977 wanting to leave.
Newbury Constituency Labour Party declined to comment on the Labour split.