New Conservative MP Christian Wakeford ‘crossed the floor’ of Parliament Wednesday, defecting from the party of government to the opposition, writing that having “wrestled” with his conscience over the decision.
Bury South representative Christian Wakeford, elected for the first time in 2019, defected from the Conservatives to Labour in Parliament just minutes before the Prime Minister was due to take questions from the floor on Wednesday, a move timed to generate maximum impact.
Despite the Prime Minister’s Questions session starting with Wakeford’s defection and ending with former Brexit Secretary and Tory veteran David Davis telling him “in the name of God, go”, the Prime Minister seemed in good spirits at the dispatch box and enjoyed cheers from Conservative backbenchers. While it has been widely claimed that plots against the Prime Minister to launch a coup are well advanced, it is not clear that this means the end of the Johnson leadership.
While Wakeford’s defection letter was scathing in its condemnation of the Prime Minister, eagle-eyed followers of Westminster machinations noted that Wakeford just last year co-sponsored and voted for a bill that would hand local voters the ability to punish Members of Parliament for changing party after being elected under a particular colour.
Under the Westminster system, while members are elected under the banner of a particular party, they are then free to change their allegiance without having to go back to their electorate to have the decision, and their continued service in the role, confirmed. Some defecting MPs choose to seek re-election as a matter of honour but most do not. It has been suggested that this process should be automated, or could be activated by local consent, as the bill supported by Wakeford suggested.
UK broadcaster GB News published Wakeford’s resignation letter in full, which was highly critical of the Prime Minister. He wrote:
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 combating anti-Semitism.