In the past few minutes Boris Johnson’s Red Wall has started to crumble in a more dramatic way than he thought possible. Christian Wakeford, the Conservative MP for Bury South, is defecting to the Labour party, having previously submitted a vote a letter calling for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Wakeford has been conspicuously unhappy with the leadership of his party for some time: he famously called Owen Paterson a c*** in the voting lobbies during the attempts to help him evade the standards regime that started the turmoil around Boris Johnson.
This is the worst possible timing for Johnson as he is currently backstage in the House of Commons preparing for what was already going to be a bruising session at Prime Minister’s Questions. Wakeford had been in talks with Keir Starmer and his team for a number of months which means the Labour leader has had plenty of preparation for this session. Boris Johnson has had none.
Wakeford’s defection also sends quite a striking message about the Labour party. His constituency has a large Jewish population and he has been very concerned with fighting anti-semitism since being elected in 2019. That he has chosen to move to Starmer’s party shows he believes Labour has changed sufficiently for it to be a safe space for Jewish members again.
Defectors get a rough time in politics. They are often shunned socially by their previous colleagues and never fully trusted by the MPs in their new party. How his former Tory colleagues talk about Wakeford in the coming days will give us a very good idea of how close to the end Boris Johnson is getting.
In a statement, Wakeford told the PM:
‘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.