Former Tory minister joins Lib Dems urging 'liberal conservatives and social democrats' to follow

PUBLISHED: 10:51 07 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:45 07 October 2019

Guy Verhofstadt holds a 'Bollocks to Brexit' t-shirt with Catherine Bearder during Lib Dem party conference. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Guy Verhofstadt holds a 'Bollocks to Brexit' t-shirt with Catherine Bearder during Lib Dem party conference. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

A former Conservative cabinet minister and health secretary has joined the Liberal Democrats.

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Stephen Dorrell, who previously joined Change UK, claimed "both major parties" have retreated "into mean-spirited factionalism" as he announced his decision in The Times.

Dorrell, who was health secretary under John Major and an MP between 1979 and 2015, used an opinion piece in the newspaper to urge liberal conservatives and social democrats to "break cover from their respective parties and join the Liberal Democrats in a big liberal tent."

Stephen Dorrell at an event to discuss the future of British politics at the Church House in Westminster. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/PA.Stephen Dorrell at an event to discuss the future of British politics at the Church House in Westminster. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/PA.

He said the values of the EU are "essential ingredients of the success of western civilisation, and liberals should organise to defend them wherever and whenever they are threatened."

"Our society is in the middle of a similar political crisis; the modern heirs of these liberal traditions now find themselves shackled to dinosaurs which are no longer viable," he writes. "It is time for them to break their shackles and join with the Liberal Democrats to build an effective voice for a modern liberal Britain. That is what I have done."

He later told LBC: "The social democrats are no longer at home in the party of Jeremy Corbyn and I don't think any liberal conservative, which is what I've always regarded myself as being, could possibly regard Boris Johnson or Priti Patel or Dominic Raab as people who speak for them."

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