Conservative MP for Bury South Christian Wakeford, elected to represent one of the ‘Red Wall’ constituencies lost to the Tories in the 2019 general election, has defected to the Labour Party amid the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal.
Keir Starmer said: “I would like to welcome Christian Wakeford to the Labour Party. He has always put the people of Bury South first. As Christian said, the policies of the Conservative government are doing nothing to help the people of Bury South and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse.
“People across Britain faces a cost of living crisis but this incompetent Tory government is asleep at the wheel, distracted by a chaos of its own making. Meanwhile families, businesses and pensioners are suffering from the Conservative failure to tackle rising food, fuel and energy prices.
“Labour are the only ones who have put forward a plan to help people through the Tory cost of living crisis. I’m determined to build a new Britain, which guarantees security, prosperity and respect for all, and I’m delighted that Christian has decided to join us in this endeavour.”
In a letter to Boris Johnson published today, Wakeford told the Prime Minister: “You and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves.”
The decision of the Conservative MP to cross the floor and join the Labour Party represents the first defection from the Tories to Labour since Quentin Davies did the same in 2007 shortly after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.
Bury South was held by Labour until the sitting MP Ivan Lewis became Independent after the 2017 general election. The constituency was then won by Wakeford under the Conservative banner by a majority of just 402 votes in 2019.
Starmer kicked off Prime Minister’s Questions today by asking: “Can I start by warmly welcoming the Honourable Member for Bury South to his new place… and to the Parliamentary Labour Party?”
The Labour leader added: “Like so many people up and down the country, he has concluded that the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership this country deserves, whereas the Labour Party stands ready to provide an alternative government that the country can be proud of.
“The Labour Party has changed – and so has the Conservative Party. He and anyone else who wants to build a new Britain, built on security, decency, prosperity, respect, is welcome in my Labour Party.”
Johnson said at PMQs: “The Conservative Party won the Bury South for the first time in generations under this Prime Minister, under the agenda of uniting and levelling up for the people of Bury South – and we will win again in Bury South at the next election under this Prime Minister”.
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) January 19, 2022
Wakeford supported the fire-and-rehire bill put forward by Labour’s Barry Gardiner in October, saying of the practice: “This policy isn’t anti-business, it is anti-bad business leaders.” He also called Owen Paterson a “c***” in the voting lobbies.
James Frith, the former Labour MP for Bury North, said the defection was “good news for Bury”, adding: “I think he’s shown courage on the important calls in recent weeks. Life in Bury and Britain under the Tories is getting worse not better. Johnson is a charlatan and must go.”
But others have disagreed, including Young Labour, which tweeted: “Christian Wakeford MP should not be admitted to the Labour Party. He has consistently voted against the interests of working-class people; for the £20 universal credit cut, for the nationality and borders bill and for the police and crime bill. Young Labour does not welcome him.”
Momentum, the Corbynite activist group, also expressed opposition to Wakeford’s defection to Labour, saying: “Keir Starmer has just welcomed an anti-BLM, climate-change denying, pro-tax dodging Tory MP onto the Labour benches.”
Below is the full text of Christian Wakeford’s letter to Boris Johnson.
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign from the Conservative Party and apply to join the Labour Party.
From today I will be sitting as the Labour MP for Bury South because I have reached the conclusion that the best interests of my constituents are served by the programme put forward by Keir Starmer and his party.
I care passionately about the people of Bury South and I have concluded that the policies of the Conservative government that you lead are doing nothing to help the people of my constituency and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse.
Britain needs a government focused on tackling the cost of living crisis and providing a path out of the pandemic that protects living standards and defends the security of all. It needs a government that upholds the highest standards of integrity and probity in public life and sadly both you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves.
Being elected as MP for Bury South was the proudest day of my life. I care passionately about the area and will always be grateful to those who have supported me. Today, however, I am in no doubt that they will be better served by my joining a party that genuinely has their interests at heart.
I have wrestled with my conscience for many months, and you will know that I have made my policy misgivings clear on many occasions in private and sometimes in public. I can no longer support a government that has shown itself consistently out of touch with the hard working people of Bury South and the country as a whole.
Under Keir Starmer, the Labour Party is back firmly in the centre of British politics, in touch with working people, and ready to provide an alternative government that this country can be proud of, and not embarrassed by.
My decision is about much more than your leadership and the disgraceful way you have conducted yourself in recent weeks. However, I don’t believe all politicians are the same and I do believe in the power of politics to be a force for good. So does Keir Starmer. He has shown that integrity in the way he has led his party on issues that matter to me, not least the vital challenge of combatting antisemitism.
I will always put the people of Bury South first and will continue to speak out for the changes the area needs. Changes that can only be delivered by a Labour government with Keir Starmer.