Following Sam Gyimah’s high profile defection from the Tories, the Liberal Democrats are preparing for the second day of their party conference.
Former Conservative minister and leadership contender Gyimah took to the Liberal Democrat conference stage yesterday amid wild adulation as he confirmed he had become the sixth MP to defect this year.
Speaking at the Lib Dem party conference in Bournemouth, Gyimah took aim at prime minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing them of presiding over “intolerant” parties.
Leader Jo Swinson kept members at the conference waiting until well into the evening on the first day to reveal that Gyimah – a former aide to David Cameron when he was prime minister – had become a Lib Dem MP.
Gyimah, who represents East Surrey, sat as an independent after losing the Tory whip when he backed a move by opposition parties to prevent a no-deal Brexit earlier this month.
He scolded the PM for “playing fast and loose with our constitution” in the way he had hinted he might not obey the Benn Bill – the law passed last week that demands a Brexit extension until 2020 is sought if no withdrawal agreement is in place by October 19.
“Essentially, a government that has made law enforcement the centre-piece of its programme, more police officers to make sure its citizens obey the law, is saying to us it will pick and choose which laws it respects – that is incredibly dangerous,” he said.
“When you are playing fast and loose with our constitution, when you are playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods, when you are playing fast and loose with people’s security, I think it is right that we all stand up.
“But when people stand up, you’re called collaborators. You’re called saboteurs. You’re called mutineers. Something has gone wrong.”
But Gyimah’s former Tory colleague and hardline no-deal Brexiteer Crispin Blunt lashed out at his decision to join the Lib Dems, accusing him of only being “in this business” for himself.
He said: “If I believed this was about a principled belief in the European ideal I would be minded to understand.
“It’s clear you’ve only been in this business for yourself. I anticipate you will find the demands of the Liberal Democrats for community engagement impossible to meet given your record as my Conservative neighbour.”
Today former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable is due to address the conference.
Current leader Jo Swinson is also due to take questions from members in the afternoon, and there will be a speech from newly elected MP Jane Dodds.