‘It’s shameful…he signed up to be a Conservative MP’: Tory defector Christian Wakeford divides opinion among the people of South Bury as some call on him to quit – and others say ‘they’re all as bad as each other’
- Bury South voters slammed MP Christian Wakeford’s defection on Wednesday
- He became first Tory to cross the floor of the Commons to join Labour in 15 years
- One voter Sham Raja, 50, described Mr Wakeford’s actions as ‘disgraceful’
Bury South voters were split in their opinion of local MP Christian Wakeford after he sensationally defected from the Conservatives to Labour on Wednesday.
Mr Wakeford, 37, inflicted a huge blow to Boris Johnson’s ailing premiership when he dramatically switched sides in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon after refusing ‘to defend the indefensible’.
The Bury South MP became the first Tory in 15 years to cross the floor of the Commons to sit on the Labour benches.
In the central Radcliffe area of the town the MP’s office, which is painted in true-blue Tory colours, was shuttered on Wednesday following his defection.
Many voters speaking to MailOnline revealed their dismay at Mr Wakeford’s shock decision and called for a by-election – claiming their votes in the 2019 election now stood for nothing.
Sham Raja, 50, slammed the new Labour MP’s actions as ‘disgraceful’, and called for him to step down as he had brought ‘shame’ on the Bury South constituency.
‘It’s so shameful. He signed up to be a Conservative MP,’ he told MailOnline.
‘I think he should step down as an MP and if he wants to be a Labour MP, he should apply to be one.
‘It’s disgraceful, he was elected under the Conservative banner. He only got these votes because of the Conservatives.
‘I’m so upset, he’s shamed all of us in Bury South.’
But the MP – who was last night dubbed Mr Wokeford by critics – rejected pressure to trigger a by-election despite previously supporting a backbench bill that called for any MP who switches parties to face a recall petition.
Christian Wakeford MP, 37, (right) inflicted a huge blow to Boris Johnson’s ailing premiership when he dramatically switched sides in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon after refusing ‘to defend the indefensible’
Christian Wakeford, MP for Bury South, became the first Tory in 15 years to cross the floor of the Commons to sit on the Labour benches on Wednesday
In the 2019 election, Mr Wakeford narrowly took the Bury South constituency from Labour – who had held the seat since 1997 – after winning with a slim majority of 402 votes.
He would hit the headlines again last November after he swore at Owen Paterson after Tory MPs were instructed to help block his suspension from the Commons for breaking lobbying rules.
Mr Wakeford was one of seven Tory MPs to publicly call for Boris Johnson to quit, but his defection means there is now one fewer letter of no confidence with 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.
While the row over No10 parties had been the final straw for him, Mr Wakeford highlighted issues including free school meals, the row over Dominic Cummings’ behaviour during lockdown, the cost-of-living crisis and the Owen Paterson affair, for his decision to defect.
He said Tories were ‘trying to defend the indefensible and they are doing so gladly’.
And a close ally of the PM said last night that Mr Johnson was ‘delighted’ about Mr Wakeford’s move as it has given the party a common enemy, while a senior Tory MP said it had ‘united’ the backbenches.
One Conservative voter, Sham Raja, 50, (pictured) slammed the new Labour MP’s actions as ‘disgraceful’, and called for him to step down as he had brought ‘shame’ on the Bury South constituency
Barry Humphries, 78, a retired voter in the town, offered a more optimistic assessment of Mr Wakeford’s defection: ‘Good for him’
Bury South voters Hazel Donnelly, 64, (left) and Jeremy Burtles, 67, were highly critical of Mr Wakeford’s shock move to the Labour party on Wednesday
Christian Wakeford was elected as the Conservative MP for Bury South for the first time in 2019 – one of the Red Wall victories which propelled Boris Johnson to his massive election win.
But the married 37-year-old has now switched to Labour, inflicting a massive blow to Mr Johnson’s ailing premiership.
Mr Wakeford hit the headlines in November 2021 after it emerged he called Owen Paterson a ‘c***’ to his face after the latter was found to have broken lobbying rules.
Mr Wakeford narrowly snatched the Bury South seat from Labour in 2019, winning with a majority of just 402 votes.
Labour had held the seat since 1997.
Before entering politics, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University.
He served as a Tory councillor on Lancashire County Council and also previously worked as a case worker for Tory MP Andrew Stephenson.
He served as the leader of the Tories on Pendle Borough Council.
In Parliament, Mr Wakeford is a member of the Education Select Committee.
He is also the co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews.
Conservatives Lee Anderson and Jonathan Gullis said Tory MPs had dubbed him Christian ‘Wokeford’, as the people of Bury South ‘voted for a Conservative agenda, not the Labour woke agenda that we’re seeing today’.
Members of the local electorate also shared their fury at Mr Wakeford’s desertion from the Tory party.
64-year-old Hazel Donnelly told MailOnline: ‘I don’t think it was very good at all, he shouldn’t be allowed to do that. It won’t change the way I vote because I’m a conservative.
‘I don’t think it’s a big deal what Boris did – there are much worse things that have happened recently.
‘There should be certain rules with these things. I think he has broken a rule but there are more important things going on at the moment.’
Jeremy Burtles, 67, agreed and added: ‘There should be another election – you can’t just switch.
‘If you want to change parties, you need to step down.
‘You always vote for the party you want in charge so I think it’s ridiculous to switch all of a sudden.
‘I’ve lived in Preswitch all of my life and it’s always been more conservative than labour.
‘If you’re going to change your view, you should just step down.’
Barry Humphries, 78, a retired voter in the town, offered a more optimistic assessment.
He said: ‘Good for him. I think he’s doing what’s right for him and he’s standing up for what he believes in.’
But Tory voter Joan Humphreys said she feels like her tick at the ballot box in 2019 had been wasted.
She said: ‘I feel like going down there and saying, ‘Right. I want to withdraw it.’
‘If he wants to become Labour, and he wants to support Labour’s policies, we should have a by-election and see what the people say.
‘If Boris had held his hands up at the beginning, people would have been far more forgiving about it, but he’s not.
‘But who are you going to have instead of Boris? I can’t see anybody else.’
Outside on the street, ex-Labour and current Tory voter Mavis Leach said: ‘Well, I’m surprised. Are there others doing it, as well, getting out of a sinking ship before it goes down?’
Mrs Leach, who said she disavowed Labour because of a dislike for former leader Jeremy Corbyn, said Boris Johnson should stay on as Prime Minister.
‘I know he’s done wrong, done a lot of things wrong,’ she said. ‘Boris has done a lot of things. We know that.
‘But I think he’s done a good job in other things, (such as) bringing the vaccinations in, and we’re in a good place for that.’
Bury South voter Vickie Stone, 70, added: ‘I don’t know too much about it. If he wants to do it because of Boris Johnson then I think that’s fair enough’
60-year-old Ikfan Ahmed, another local resident, said he had ‘always been happy’ with Mr Wakeford’s role as his local MP
Vickie Stone, 70, added: ‘I don’t know too much about it. If he wants to do it because of Boris Johnson then I think that’s fair enough.
‘If he doesn’t agree with the way Boris is handling the situation then that’s up to him.
‘I’m more bothered about the leadership, I’m worried about who is going to replace Boris if it ends up going that way.’
60-year-old Ikfan Ahmed, another local resident, said he had ‘always been happy’ with Mr Wakeford’s role as his local MP.
‘I think these days it’s okay to change your policies,’ he told MailOnline.
‘ He has been very good for our area and I’m happy with what he’s done. It doesn’t matter to me that he has changed.
‘I don’t think if you start your career as a Conservative candidate you shouldn’t just be allowed to change.’
David Collins, who runs Marie’s Coffee Shop, a stone’s throw from Mr Wakeford’s constituency office, said: ‘I probably wouldn’t vote for either of them anyway, Labour or Conservative.
‘They’re all as bad as each other.
‘They all promise they’re going to do things and none of it ever materialises, does it?
‘You wouldn’t think you were able to jump ship halfway through, would you?’
But Labour insiders have been highly critical of Mr Wakeford and refused to echo the warm wishes sent by the party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer.
A statement on Young Labour’s Twitter account said: ‘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.’
Christian Wakeford allegedly pictured at a house party in Manchester in June last year, Manchester Young Conservatives said on Twitter
The group claimed the MP for Bury South ‘drank so much tequila he chundered’ while at a house party
The Corbynite Momentum campaign group also said Mr Wakeford ‘should be nowhere near the Labour Party’.
A spokesman said: ‘Christian Wakeford has voted with this hard-Right Tory government almost 400 times in just two years – voting against measures to stop climate change and tax avoidance and against enabling domestic abuse victims to have access to benefits.’
Mr Wakeford’s defection on Wednesday capped a gruelling day at the office for the Prime Minister, who was bluntly told to step down by senior Conservative and arch Brexiteer David Davis, 73, during a fiery round of PMQs.
Mr Davis sensationally told the Prime Minister to ‘in the name of God, go’ in the Commons on Wednesday shortly after one of the newest Tory MPs defected to Labour.
Mr Johnson went into the Commons with his premiership on life support, as a group of Tories who won their seats in the 2019 election landslide – dubbed the ‘Pork Pie plotters – appeared to have lost faith in their boss.
No 10 said Mr Johnson will fight any no-confidence vote launched against him and insisted he expects to fight the next general election, with a spokesman insisting he remained ‘the best man for the job’.
Mr Johnson’s press secretary said he would have further meetings with MPs as he attempted to shore up support on his back benches.
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