Former Tory minister Sam Gyimah joins the Lib Dems

Former Tory minister Sam Gyimah, who has defected to the Liberal Democrats, with leader Jo Swinson.

Former Tory minister Sam Gyimah, who has defected to the Liberal Democrats, with leader Jo Swinson. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Former Tory minister Sam Gyimah has joined the Liberal Democrats - giving a boost to the anti-Brexit party on the first day of conference.

Gyimah, who ran for Tory leader just three months months ago, has previously served as a minister and served as parliamentary private secretary to David Cameron. He was one of 21 rebels to have the whip removed for voting to stop a no-deal Brexit.

He has been unveiled on stage at Lib Dem conference by leader Jo Swinson.

Revealing why he had joined, Gyimah told the Guardian: "What attracted me to the Conservative party was these One Nation values. What has happened since the referendum, initially slowly, but increasingly accelerated over the last few months, is that it has moved away from those values. It has become more intolerant. It has become, in the desire to neutralise Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party, more doctrinaire.

"I listen to ministers undermining the courts. Ministers questioning experts because their views are inconvenient for what the government is saying about no deal. Or 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."

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He added: "The issue for me is not just Brexit. It is beyond Brexit - how you conduct politics and the veering towards populism and English nationalism."

The party Lib Dem faithful have been feeling buoyant after a stream of former Tories and Labour MPs joined the party in recent weeks, including former minister Dr Philip Lee and Liverpool Wavertree representative Luciana Berger.

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It is more good news for leader Swinson, who is preparing to strengthen her party's pro-European Union credentials before any upcoming snap election.

She will be asking members to sign-off on her policy of revoking Article 50, without the need for a second referendum, if the Lib Dems win a majority at the next election.

Baroness Sal Brinton, president of the Lib Dems, said in her speech on Saturday that the new MP recruits were "learning fast".

"They have also been on a journey to becoming Liberal Democrats, and they are learning fast. As a party, we are on that journey too," she told members.

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