Defecting was most difficult decision – Wakefordon January 19, 2022 at 5:46 pm

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The ex-Tory MP says he had “many sleepless nights” over moving to Labour, but it was the “right decision”.

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Defecting from the Conservatives to Labour was “the most difficult decision of my life”, says Christian Wakeford.

The MP for Bury South switched parties on Wednesday to cheers from new colleagues, but anger from the old.

Mr Wakeford said he had been considering the move for “months” and had “many sleepless nights”.

But he said it was the “right thing” for his constituents, adding he would remain “a moderate and centrist… just wearing a different rosette”.

The new Labour recruit, who was elected in 2019, announced his decision moments before Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

It comes at a crunch time for Boris Johnson, who has been facing growing dissent from his own benches after he admitted he attended a Downing Street drinks event during the first Covid lockdown.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed Mr Wakeford into the fold, saying: “History is on your side.”

But Mr Johnson insisted his party would win back the seat again at the next election.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Wakeford said a range of issues led him to the decision, including free school meals, Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle, the cost of living crisis and the string of party accusations of recent weeks.

“This wasn’t a matter of just deciding this morning I want to be a Labour MP,” he added. “This has been many months in the build-up.”

He accused his former colleagues of “defending the indefensible”, saying there was “no leadership and no integrity” in the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson.

And he claimed the PM was “running out of road and brass neck to hide behind”.

‘Soul-searching’

Asked how he would explain this to Tories in his constituency, Mr Wakeford said: “It is not [a decision] I have come to lightly… hopefully people will understand.

“This is the first day in my adult life that I’ve not been a member of the Conservative Party – it is that serious.”

He added: “I have had to do a serious amount of soul-searching and hopefully we can all get on and deliver what residents need.

“I was elected as a moderate and centrist and I am still a moderate and a centrist just wearing a different rosette.”

But some his former Tory peers who were elected in the same year accused him of “betrayal”.

One said they felt “let down” by Mr Wakeford’s defection, but added the move had actually “unified the party” behind the PM.

A former cabinet minister echoed that sentiment, telling the BBC he had given Tory MPs a new “target” for their rage – even those who had been frustrated with the prime minister.

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What do the people of Bury think?

Debbie and Fred Clark

At Rosylee coffee house opposite the Christian Wakeford’s office, there was a feisty conversation about his defection.

Debbie Clark, 52, who lives in the Radcliffe area of Bury, voted Conservative for the first time at the last election.

“I am disgusted,” she told BBC North West Tonight. “I voted for the party. He should resign and we should have a by-election.”

Her husband Fred, also 52, agrees, adding: “He should not have the right to go to Labour.”

But 51-year-old Maxine Ballington, who also voted Conservative, she agreed with Mr Wakeford’s calls for the PM to resign.

“I’ve lost two people to Covid,” she said. “People were fined for having house parties. How can he go to a party at Downing Street?”

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