The MP for Bury South co-sponsored and voted for a private members bill which would allow MPs who changed their political party to be recalled, triggering a by-election in their constituencies. The bill was not passed by Parliament. Mr Wakeford announced his defection to Labour just minutes before Boris Johnson faced another grilling at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today.
The Red Wall MP, who was elected in 2019, could be seen crossing the floor of the Commons to the Labour benches, where he was warmly welcomed by Sir Keir Starmer and met with applause from Labour MPs.
Conservative MPs could be heard booing Mr Wakeford, who announced the move in the Bury Times and sent a letter to Mr Johnson ahead of another dramatic PMQs.
Mr Wakeford said: “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.”
His defection was welcomed by many Labour MPs, with Sir Keir Starmer praising him for always putting his constituents first.
Sir Keir said: “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.”
Mr Johnson vowed that the Conservatives will “win again in Bury South” after Mr Wakeford took a seat on the opposition benches behind the Labour leader.
However, the MP’s defection was met with outrage by the campaign group Momentum, who said he should be “nowhere near the Labour party” and called on Sir Keir to kick him out.
BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall tweeted: “Momentum on Wakeford defection: ‘He should be nowhere near the Labour Party, and the decision by Starmer to accept him is an insult to the millions of working people who want to see a fairer country. Wakeford should be booted out of Labour and a by-election called immediately.’” Momentum said the Bury South MP had “consistently voted against progressive policies”.
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Mr Wakeford, who won his seat by a majority of just 402, announced his defection just minutes before the Prime Minister arrived in the Commons, accusing Mr Johnson of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves” following the partygate scandal.
Pressure is mounting on the Prime Minister to step down after he admitted attending a “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden during England’s first coronavirus lockdown.
Several MPs have reportedly submitted letters of no confidence with more prepared to do so. According to Sky News, around 12 letters were handed in this morning. Conservative Party rule states that at least 15 percent of its MPs – which currently equates to 54 MPs – must submit letters to topple Johnson.
Around 10 more Tory MPs are thought to have sent letters on Tuesday after the “Red Wall” meeting in the office of the Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns, in which a group of MPs elected in 2019 reportedly discussed how to proceed over the partygate scandal.
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Mr Wakeford is one of several Tory MPs to publicly call for Mr Johnson’s resignation. Also speaking at PMQs today, former Brexit Secretary David Davis issued a blistering rebuke of the Prime Minister, who he told to resign “in the name of God”
Speaking in the Commons, the former Brexit secretary said: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday he did the opposite of that.”
A Labour MP had previously held the Red Wall seat at every election since 1997.
Labour has so far dismissed calls for a by-election. Asked if, as far as Sir Keir is concerned, there is no principle requiring anyone who defects from one party to another to stand for re-election, a spokesman for the Labour Party said: “Correct.”
Asked whether Mr Wakeford will face a trigger ballot in the coming months, a spokesman for the Labour party said: “We’ll set out all of the process, obviously, once we’ve had a chance to speak to people, the relevant people that vote in the local party and nationally, and we’ll happily set out the process at that point. But I don’t want to pre-empt that now.”