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I’ve resigned the Lib Dem whip over Brexit position

December 7, 2018 7:00 AM

It has to be said that politicians nowadays don't have a terribly good reputation. One of the reasons I suspect is so many are perceived to break their promises to the public.

They say one thing to get elected or to curry favour, and then drop it with an expediency which is pretty unseemly.

The public know this and find it infuriating or shrug their shoulders cynically as if to say - 'what do you expect, he/she is only a politician?' I was well aware of such a view when deciding to go into politics, after having been in business for many years, but was equally determined, from the start, that I would try to play a positive role in change this opinion. Thus a fundamental commitment I made to myself all those years ago was that if I made a political promise, I would keep it. Which leads me to where we are today!

You will be aware during the referendum and the subsequent snap general election, I made a promise that although I debated actively for us to Remain in the EU, I would accept the result, support the deal the Prime Minister brought back from the EU and not back calls for a second referendum.

And since then I've been consistent with this pledge. Folk know that when I give Eastbourne and Willingdon my word I keep it. Just as I did over the rise in university tuition fees. However promises, as we are all aware, can be easy to give but sometimes very, very difficult to keep. Put bluntly they may have uncomfortable consequences, which is why I suspect so many politicians break theirs. And the promise I made to you has consequences for me. My party, the Liberal Democrats, have a position in Westminster diametrically opposite to my pledge to the town. And despite considerable pressure from numerous sources, more than I have ever experienced frankly in anything I have ever done within or without politics, I remain determined to stick to my word to the town.

Consequently I have, sadly, come to the conclusion that the only honourable thing for me to do is to resign the Lib Dem parliamentary whip in Westminster. This means I will sit and vote in Parliament as an independent, doing what I've always done as your MP, putting our town above party politics. But locally I'll of course continue working closely with our excellent Lib Dem council to ensure we keep Eastbourne moving in the positive direction so many of us have worked so hard on for the last 10 years. In Parliament though I'll no longer formally be a Liberal Democrat. I have posted below my resignation letter addressed, as protocol dictates, to our Chief Whip in Westminster Alistair Carmichael MP:

Dear Alistair - It is with regret that I am writing to you to tender my resignation of the party whip in Parliament. I have come to this conclusion because the pledge I made to my town cannot be honestly reconciled with the position of the Party over the Prime Minister's EU Withdrawal Bill, and the People's Vote.

Though I fought as a Remainer during the referendum, and still believe we would be better off in the EU, I also made a clear promise to my constituency, Eastbourne and Willingdon, at the time that I would accept the result, support the deal the PM brought back from the EU and not back calls for a second referendum.

However, I appreciate me voting this way and not supporting a People's Vote, are counter to the Liberal Democrat's formal position. Consequently I have decided the only honourable thing for me to do is to resign the party whip in Parliament.

Rest assured though, that I will continue to fight hard for liberal values and press my constituents' cases actively in Westminster, as I have always done. I am genuinely saddened to take this action as have nothing but respect and affection for you, my parliamentary colleagues and for our Party.

With best wishes - Stephen Lloyd MP

On to a happier topic, I was absolutely delighted last week to open the walkway connecting the new section of the shopping centre with the old, and joined others to celebrate its formal name change from the Arndale to The Beacon. This is such an important development for the town centre. Compared to virtually any other seaside town in the country we are seriously bucking the economic trend.

Standing there at The Beacon opening, remembering the years of work, occasional fraught negotiations and ups and downs that it took to get here, I was reminded yet again why I love Eastbourne so much, and why it's such a privilege being your MP.