Sarah Wollaston's decision to take the Liberal Democrat whip is not altogether surprising. What might surprise her constituents, however, is the MP's announcement that she will continue as their representative without seeking a second vote. After all, Wollaston's voters at the 2017 general election didn't have all the facts - they didn't know what they were voting for. Asked if she might consider putting the decision back to the people, the Totnes MP told Sky News:
'If I were to call a by-election at the moment, all that would happen would be that we would effectively be increasing the government's majority over the period of a constitutional crisis. That's not the right thing to do.'
See part the Sky interview here:
— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) August 15, 2019
'If I were to call a by-election, we would be effectively increasing the governments majority in a constitutional crisis' - @sarahwollaston MP rules out a by-election in her constituency after switching to the Lib Dems.#SunriseGet more here: https://t.co/7vrchYVeSN pic.twitter.com/X1rysmIjat
All this, despite the fact that nearly 54 per cent of her constituents voted for a Tory MP compared to the 13 per cent who voted for the former Lib Dem candidate. Surely any MP who defects should do voters the courtesy of allowing them another chance to choose who represents them? Such an argument is by no means lost on Dr Wollaston.
In November 2011, the recently-elected MP backed a Ten Minute Rule Bill that proposed:
'That any Member who decides to change parties—in other words, crosses the Floor or “defects”, should trigger an automatic by-election so that their constituents can have the final say on their decision.'
While Wollaston is willing to give her constituents 'a final say' on a decision she doesn't like, the idea of allowing the people of Totnes the chance to oust her is now beyond the pale. How convenient...