Christian Wakeford says he was ‘threatened’ by whips
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The GB News presenter and former Brexit Party leader reacted to Christian Wakeford’s, now Labour MP for Bury South, defection from the Conservatives. The MP who won the seat in 2019 joined the opposition over Boris Johnson and the Government being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.
Mr Farage called for the Bury South MP to call a by-election, saying to stay in the seat “is the height of entitlement”.
He said: “Welcoming this new addition to his ranks, the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, gleefully introduced Wakeford as the “honourable member for Bury South”. I beg to differ.
“Wakeford’s actions are deeply dishonourable and an insult to Red Wall voters in his constituency, many of whom voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 only after wrestling with their conscience.”
He later added: “He seems to think that every Conservative voter in Bury South voted for him personally.”
However, Mr Farage also said the Prime Minister should have demanded Mr Wakeford trigger a by-election, saying it would be the “killer line” to the defector.
Writing in the Telegraph, the GB News host said: “As the session wore on, I waited and waited for what I had hoped would be the killer line from the Prime Minister. He never uttered it.
“I was anticipating that Johnson might have the wit to demand that Wakeford behave with some degree of honour and submit himself to a by-election.
“It would be particularly appropriate for this backbencher, of all MPs, to do so. In September 2020, he co-sponsored and voted for a private members’ bill that would “enable the recall of Members of the House of Commons who voluntarily change their political party affiliation; and for connected purposes”.
“It is a near-certainty that in his case, this will never happen. The sheer hypocrisy of this man knows no bounds.”
Concluding his article, Mr Farage said many hoped “Brexit would herald the start of a new era in politics”, but added: “Sadly, the Wakeford affair shows that old habits die hard.”
After noting that out of the 23 MPs who defected in the last 30 years were UKIP MPs under his leadership, Mr Farage said: “The Conservative Party must seize this opportunity – not just to prevent further defections, but to show the country that Brexit is just the beginning of re-establishing trust between the governors and the governed.
“Legislation should be put forward requiring any MP who defects to hold a by-election. After the student drinking culture in Number 10 that has been exposed recently, such a move might just be a way for the Conservative Party to save itself.
“I won’t, however, hold my breath.”
Mr Wakeford crossed the floor minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, and pointed to scandals over reported Downing Street parties during the UK’s coronavirus lockdowns.
Speaking on Thursday at a Labour event, Mr Wakeford also echoed claimed Tory whips threatened to scrap a new school in his constituency if he did not vote the right way in parliament.
He said: “How would you feel when they hold back the regeneration of a town for a vote. It didn’t sit comfortably.
“That was the start of me questioning my place, where I was and ultimately to where I am now.”
William Wragg chairs the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, and claimed Tory whips had threatened to withdraw funding from constituencies of MPs opposing Mr Johnson.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “We are not aware of any evidence to support what are clearly serious allegations.
“If there is any evidence to support these claims we would look at it very carefully.”
The MP for Bury South supported a backbench bill in 2020 that called for any MP who switches parties to face a recall petition.
Speaking to broadcasters, he said: “I think it was quite clear that even the Prime Minister wasn’t calling for a by-election today, and I think it’s been quite clear that they know they’d lose.”
Sham Raja, chair of North Manchester’s Conservative Association, told the Guardian he found Mr Wakeford’s defection “completely disgraceful”, calling for a by-election to see if Wakeford would still win under a “Labour banner”.
A local Labour party source also told the outlet the defection had not “gone down well with local members”.
They added: “None of them voted for him to be the MP, so it will be hard to now embrace him as one of our own.
“This might be positive news nationally but locally it is not going to end well.”
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