Published: 16:44, 29 July 2021
| Updated: 18:01, 29 July 2021
A long-standing Kent Conservative has quit the party after two decades, saying that he cannot support the direction the party is heading.
Greig Baker, a former chairman of the Canterbury Conservative association, singled out plans for vaccine passports, the creation of a more interventionist state and higher taxes as reasons for handing back his membership card.
In an article for the Conservative Home website setting out his reasons for leaving, he delivers a withering assessment of the party.
“I am enormously proud to have been a Conservative member for the past 20 years, but I just can’t do it anymore," he writes.
"The threat of vaccine passports is the straw that is breaking this camel’s back.”
While praising the party for some of its achievements, he says: “I can’t be a member of a party that makes people’s lives conditional on medical status from now on, or even just threatening to do so, is not what I thought Conservatism was all about.”
“I don’t want a vaccine passport and I don’t want anyone else to be coerced into having one either.
"I don’t want the government spending vast sums on a system that could give the wrong people access to health records, is open to fraud, would discriminate by age and ethnicity, create new burdens on business, discourage personal responsibility and that would inevitably be used in an ever growing list of places for an ever growing list of reasons.”
"I hope senior Conservatives take a moment to think how some of the grassroots feel about our slide towards a state of affairs where the government dictates terms in every area of normal life..."
The possibility of vaccine passports is proving divisive for the Conservative party, with many seeing it as touchstone issue on ideological grounds.
Critics - including some Kent MPs - see it as contrary to the party’s stance on civil liberties and freedom to choose.
Mr Baker acknowledged his decision to quit would 'barely be noticed' but warned he was not alone in his views.
“Of course, the party is so much bigger than any one person and, rightly, it will barely notice my leaving," he adds.
"But I hope senior Conservatives take a moment to think how some of the grassroots feel about our slide towards a state of affairs where the government dictates terms in every area of normal life.
"I know I am not alone in my worries about this – just look at my Twitter feed.”
Mr Baker was chairman of the Canterbury Conservative Association in the run-up to the 2019 General Election, in which Tory candidate Anna Firth lost out to Labour's Rosie Duffield.
During the campaign, Mr Baker hit national headlines after Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth claimed he leaked a private phone call in which he questioned Labour’s chances at the election.
Mr Ashworth told the BBC: "I was having a bit of banter with a Tory friend – he’s only gone and leaked it all."