ANTOINETTE Sandbach has been left ‘touched and humbled’ by messages of support she has received this week.

The MP for Eddisbury was one of 21 long-standing Conservatives to lose the whip on Tuesday night after voting against the Government to pave the way for a bill to block a no deal Brexit.

While the Eddisbury Conservative Association has backed the Government’s work to ‘get on and deliver’ Brexit on October 31, Ms Sandbach insists Britain cannot afford to leave the European Union without a deal.

And the hundreds of cards, letters and emails of support she has received from constituents since Tuesday suggest she is not alone in taking that view.

“I would say that my association members don’t reflect my constituency members,” she told the Guardian.

“My association members are quite limited in terms of numbers – there are maybe 600 members, but I represent about 80,000 people.

READ > Eddisbury Conservative Association has its say after Ms Sandbach loses the whip

“And my duty as a member of parliament is to represent all my constituents, no matter how they voted – whether they voted leave or remain, whether they voted Conservative or not.

“My job is to act in their best interests, and in what I believe to be their best interests.”

After more than four years as Conservative MP for Eddisbury, Ms Sandbach is now sitting as an independent member in the House of Commons.

But she is still a member of the Conservative Party – and she will consider this weekend whether or not to appeal the Government’s decision to take the party whip away from her.

Ms Sandbach also has this weekend to mull over the prospect of a General Election later this year, with the Government expected to push the case for a snap poll on Monday.

But would she run again for the Eddisbury seat?

“I have to reflect,” said Ms Sandbach.

“The problem is that events are unfolding so fast.”

Why a second referendum might be the best route forward

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants a General Election to take place next month, but the so-called ‘rebel alliance’ – made up of opposition parties and the Conservatives who voted against him – have rejected the call so far.

Ms Sandbach had stood against a second referendum, but the Eddisbury MP is now warming to the idea.

She said: “I voted against an election last week because I have come to the conclusion that if the Prime Minister is seeking a mandate, the mandate needs to be a referendum where people can understand the choices that are being presented to them.

Winsford Guardian:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Image: Simon Dawson/PA

“I have always opposed a second referendum on the basis that I didn’t want to carry on the division that there has been in the country so far. I think the vast majority of people would compromise around a deal.

“But I am coming to the conclusion that if there is to be another vote in this country then that vote should be a second referendum so that the people themselves can tell us.

“[Mr Johnson] can present a deal if he has one, but if there is no deal I think people should have a choice between no deal and remain which was not the choice there was in the last referendum.”

The risk of no deal

On three occasions earlier this year, Ms Sandbach voted with Theresa May’s Government to push through Brexit with the deal agreed with the EU.

She insists there is ‘really no mandate for an undemocratic no deal’ – and having spent 18 months listening to its possible impact on businesses as part of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee, she believes no deal would be devastating for Eddisbury and the whole country.

“I don’t know how to run those businesses,” Ms Sandbach said.

“But when the people that do know how to run the businesses tell me that a no deal Brexit will have a devastating impact on their businesses, that some of them are considering moving out of the UK and setting up elsewhere.

Winsford Guardian:

Winsford Industrial Estate has big ambitions to grow – Ms Sandbach says jobs in Winsford would be at risk after a no deal Brexit

“And when I see independent organisations like the International Trade Observatory estimate 80,000 job losses in the north west from a no deal Brexit then of course I am concerned.”

Cheshire is home to chemical, pharmaceutical, aerospace and automotive industry – and Ms Sandbach believes her constituency would be ‘dramatically affected’ by a no deal Brexit.

She said: “All of these are highly skilled, highly paid jobs that are very difficult to secure.

“We compete internationally and I don’t want anything that is going to mean that those jobs are at risk – and they are at risk.

“[No deal] means that jobs in Winsford are at risk, it means that growth in the UK is at risk.

“Yes we will survive it – I do believe in this country and I believe we will get through it – but why would we choose to go for the worst possible option when there is a deal that is negotiated and that we could still pass?”

Having conducted her own survey in Eddisbury, and having spoken to pollsters, Ms Sandbach believes the public is now split ‘30-30-30’ between no deal, no Brexit and a compromise deal.

Winsford Guardian:

A 'tag cloud' used by Ms Sandbach's office, which shows the themes of residents' correspondence this week – including plenty of support

She says that many leave voters who she has spoken to ‘were voting for a Norway or Switzerland-style agreement’ which would keep Britain in the Single Market, while many remain voters ‘are happy to compromise’.

But the Government’s stance is Brexit on October 31 deal or no deal – and that is a message is supported by many members of the public.

Ms Sandbach said: “I completely understand that, I am as frustrated as the rest of it.

“But I am particularly frustrated that it was Conservative MPs that voted against the deal that would have allowed us to leave on March 29.

“I am really keen to find compromise, to work cross-party, to try and get a deal that would reflect that democratic mandate.”

How Antoinette found out she might be sacked by the party

Despite dozens of Conservative MPs failing to support Mrs May’s deal earlier this year – including Mr Johnson on two occasions – Ms Sandbach would be happy to see it revived.

Those rebel Conservatives did not have the whip removed by Mrs May’s Government – unlike Ms Sandbach, who learned of her fate the same way as the public did, through the press.

“I had seen the reports in the Sun and I contacted the chief whip to ask for clarification and to see whether or not that in fact was true,” she said.

“I had no reply from him, so before Tuesday that was never confirmed to me and I found it out from reports in the press, not from discussions with the chief whip.”

Ms Sandbach admits she ‘questions some of the Prime Minister’s judgement at the moment’ – but hopes he can secure a deal that will protect jobs, resolve issues surrounding the Northern Ireland border and allow Britain to pursue trade elsewhere.

She is also keen to see a return of civility in British politics.

Last month, a retired police officer was handed a suspended 18-month sentence for sending a death threat to Ms Sandbach online over her Brexit stance.

READ > Retired police officer sent death threats to Eddisbury MP

She said: “I think this is one of the things about Brexit – it seems to have undermined very British characteristics of listening to each other with respect, respecting other views and being polite to one another.

“I’m elected to be the voice of Eddisbury and I deserve the respect of other people. I have spent 10 years working to get into this place.

“I started out my political career as a single mum, spending most of the money that I earnt on diesel to go out campaigning rather than being able to take my daughter to the cinema.

“My circumstances have changed a lot since then – but I think I have earned the right to be spoken to and heard in a respectful way, and I hope that I would treat my constituents in the same way.”

'Touched and humbled'

Ms Sandbach has not received a spike in online abuse following Tuesday night’s events, but a swelling of support instead.

“You know, I am really touched, and I feel quite humbled actually,” she said.

“Many of them have spoken to me about the work that I have done in the constituency. I have dealt with thousands of constituent’s cases, I have helped a lot of constituents personally.

“I never ask how people voted, I will help anyone that comes to me because I see that as my primary duty as MP.

Winsford Guardian:

“I have been really proud to represent Eddisbury and Winsford, and I absolutely love the people that I meet and see, I love the community spirit that we have here and I’m devastated that my actions this week may mean that I lose my job.”

And is there a chance for some rest this weekend after a particularly long week in politics?

Ms Sandbach said: “I have a wonderful husband, I am fortunate enough to live in Eddisbury which is the most beautiful constituency in the world and I will have some time off.

READ > Call to improve rural broadband coverage

“But of course, because of the volume of emails I have had, I have quite a lot of work to do too.”