Backlash from Lib Dem grassroots after Tory MP defects to party

Phillip Lee sitting next to Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson. Photograph: PA Wire.

Phillip Lee sitting next to Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson. Photograph: PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Former Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee's arrival in the Liberal Democrats has not been welcomed by everyone within the party.

Dr Lee's voting record showed he had abstained on a vote to legalise same-sex marriage and that marriage should be a matter for the church to reconcile.

He also voted for a "wrecking amendment" that attempted to stop the gay marriage bill, tabled by Tory MP Tim Loughton.

He also backed regressive policies such as screening immigrants for hepatitis before allowing them into the country.

But he was welcomed by leader Jo Swinson into the party for his anti-Brexit stance, in which he claimed the Tories were "aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom."

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The move has sparked Jennie Rigg, who was chair of the Lib Dem LGBT+ group, to resign from her role and the party.

She wrote: "I thought the Lib Dems were not a single issue party. I thought we had a soul and principles.

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"But apparently as long as you are on the right side on Brexit we'll take you. Well, I'm sorry, but no."

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She added: "It doesn't matter if we already have others as bad. You don't make bad things better by adding more bad things.

"It doesn't matter that he will increase our numbers in parliament by ONE. He thinks me and people like me are a lower class of human. I will not share a party with him."

One member tweeted: "While I welcome more people becomming Lib Dems, I am concerned by Phillip Lee's track record, especially attempts to block immigration by people with HIV or Hepatitis. I can only hope Dr Lee has recognised that his former positions were wrong."

Another said: "As an LGBT+ person (Non-Binary), I am hurt & disgusted that Phillip Lee has been allowed into our party. He's not a Liberal and his views on immigrants, LGBT+ people & other marginalised communities should be fully rejected. From Tim Farron's homophobia to this, we deserve better."

Jo Swinson said that Lee "brings almost 10 years of parliamentary experience and decades of professional expertise. He shares our commitment to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit, and to stop Brexit altogether."

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