Sarah Wollaston has been the MP for Totnes since 2010. She has lived in South Devon for 25 years, and worked on the frontline in the NHS for 24 years – including as a GP, a teacher to junior doctors and medical students, and an examiner for the Royal College of GPs.
Sarah also spent several years as a police forensic examiner for Devon and Cornwall Police, mostly working with victims of sexual or domestic violence.
Sarah came into politics after the Conservative Party called on those with non-political backgrounds to bring their practical experience to Westminster. She was selected to contest the Totnes seat after the UK’s first-ever fully open postal primary, which allowed every voter in the constituency, regardless of their political affiliation, to choose the candidate.
In 2014, Sarah was named the Spectator Backbencher of the Year – an accolade also given to her by the Political Studies Association in 2015.
In 2014 she was elected Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee of the House of Commons, a position to which she was re-elected by MPs from across the House in 2015 and 2017. During her time in the Chair, the Committee has published a number of influential reports on areas such as Children’s and Adolescents’ Mental Health Services (CAMHS), end of life care, primary care, and childhood obesity. She has also campaigned on social care, local health services and public health.
In 2017 she was elected Chair of the Liaison Committee, the group of all Select Committee Chairs which regularly questions the Prime Minister.
Away from politics, Sarah likes to find time for running or cycling with her husband Adrian.
“This is about more than Brexit”
Sarah’s statement 20 February 2019
It is with great sadness that I’m leaving the Conservative Party today and I think there are three questions: Why? Why now? And what next?
So first to the why. I had to ask myself: would I have joined the party in 2009 and sat to be the first ever candidate selected by a full, open postal primary in my Totnes constituency if the party looked then as it has become today?
And the answer is no.
And I ask myself: if I wouldn’t stand to be a Conservative MP, if I wouldn’t encourage others to vote Conservative in a general election, then how can I possibly continue with the Conservative whip?
This is about more than Brexit. I joined the party after spending 24 years as a frontline doctor in the NHS; wanting to make a difference, joining a tolerant, moderate, open-hearted Conservative Party, which I think has now disappeared.
I’m afraid the Prime Minister simply hasn’t delivered on the pledge she made on the steps of Downing Street to tackle the burning injustices in our society.
And I think that what we now see is the party that was once the most trusted on economy and business is now marching us to a cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit.
I’ve been saying for weeks that if it became main party policy to deliver no deal then I would have to leave. But I’m afraid there comes a point when running down the clock is in effect the same thing. And none of us are prepared to wait until our toes are at the cliff edge before we take a stand. And before we are prepared to say – if necessary putting our careers on the line – please change your mind, Prime Minister.
This is not a binary choice between no deal and a poor deal. There is a third way. That third way is to hand that decision back to the British people, to allow them to look at the evidence, to weigh up the prospect, the pros and the cons, of the actual Brexit deal, as opposed to the fantasy promises that were made during the referendum campaign. To allow the public to weigh up the pros and cons and give their valid consent to this deal.
So, that’s why today we’re taking a stand, and why we’re doing it now. We’re proud that we’re going to be part of the new Independent Group of MPs sitting together and hoping to fix our broken politics.