I love my constituency – it is bursting with innovation and a desire to challenge the status quo. I love that my constituents want to share their talents and their discoveries to make the world a better place and to tackle inequalities. My constituents make my head and my heart fizz with possibilities.
I want to feel that way in Westminster too. I am tired of feeling numb. So today, alongside my wonderful colleagues, I have resigned from the Conservative party.
It was the Tottenham riots in 2011 that stimulated my change in career. I was busy running my own manufacturing business, I had no political interest whatsoever and never even thought about joining a political party.
But watching the news, night after night, it was as if Lord Kitchener was pointing his finger out of the screen, at me. ‘Your country needs you.’ That raw hunger to serve my country and to offer my skills and experience led me to the Conservative party.
I believed that under David Cameron and his Big Society, the party, like me, was ambitious for the country. It was challenging the nasty party image and proving that we could in fact be a party of both competence and compassion.
So why, so often, too often, in the last three years have I found myself going over the top fighting for benevolence in our welfare system? The Department for Work and Pensions has had six secretaries of state in 3 years – six! You wouldn’t run a business like that and expect it to succeed. So how can it possibly be acceptable when you are completely redesigning our welfare safety net? Particularly when that net is so vital when we are at our lowest and when we need it most.
Because those that rely on the net are people, and not numbers.
I shouldn’t have to feel that the only option left open to me is to take a camera crew around the country to shine a devastating spotlight on poverty. It shouldn’t be this hard.
I believed I was part of a party who worked collaboratively, welcomed knowledge and had the empathy to feel. But I have slowly but surely realised that I am not. I can no longer represent a Government and a party who can’t open their eyes to the suffering endured by the most vulnerable in society. Suffering which we have deepened whilst having the power to fix.
“I can no longer represent a party who can’t open their eyes to the suffering endured by the most vulnerable in society”
The Conservatives were always recognised as the party of economic competence, but when we allowed a Cabinet Minister to say ‘eff business’, and we have a Prime Minister bullied into submission by the ERG, and is now dragging the country and Parliament kicking and screaming to the edge of a no-deal abyss… I’m done.
I want to be part of something better, a party that people vote for because they want to, not because they feel they have to.
But this afternoon, I feel a mix of emotions. Apprehension, some sadness. I do worry about my relationships with good friends I have made in the Conservative party. They know who they are.
But do you know what I also feel, ladies and gentlemen? I feel excited – so excited and in a way that I haven’t felt since I was first elected. And a sense of liberation.
Because the United Kingdom deserves better. I didn’t leave my business to lower my professional standards and accept second best. I demand more from my party and more from my country. More competence, more collaboration, more expert analysis, more transparency, more care and more fairness.
“I demand more … More competence, more collaboration, more expert analysis, more transparency, more care and more fairness.”
It needs to push and shove and drive, not cower from its own shadow. It should attract the best minds, the biggest hearts and the most effective communicators. I – we – are prepared to dare to dream that this is possible.
But it’s not going to happen if we sit idly by, nodding through policy and voting like sheep. If Brexit was a pained clarion call for change, then we hear it. Our parties have been unable to grasp the magnitude of the challenge and have no plan to respond nor heal the divisions across our cities, our villages and our dining tables.
So we need to start again with a clean sheet. And as true centre ground MPs, sharing the same values as millions of our citizens, we have a responsibility to act.
This is an excerpt from Heidi Allen’s speech on becoming an independent, 20 February 2019.