Christian Wakeford: Principled defector, or shallow strategist?
‘Boris Johnson is living on borrowed time. He has poisoned the Tory Party from top to bottom’, wrote Labour’s newest MP, Christian Wakeford, in the Sunday Mirror last week. His defection from the Conservative Party has drawn mixed responses, with some labelling him a ‘coward’, others lauding him for landing an ‘absolute body blow’ to Boris Johnson. But what has spurred this sudden change of heart for Mr. Wakeford? Is he merely trying to save his own skin, set against the backdrop of a Conservative Party dogged by scandal-after-scandal and trailing in the polls? Or does he genuinely believe that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is the party that will best help his Bury South constituency?
Elected in 2019 and unseating longtime Labour MP Ivan Lewis, Wakeford is a member of the Education Select Committee, and, more importantly, he is the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews. This appointment makes sense; Bury South has some of the largest Jewish communities outside of London in the whole country. Now, given the accusations of anti-semitism that plagued the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, the fact that the co-chair of the APPG on British Jews has defected to Labour seems to show us that he believes Starmer has done a good job in ridding the Labour Party of a lot of its perceived anti-semitism. Perhaps, therefore, having faith in Starmer’s ability to keep his promises (he did, after all, promise to mark a ‘line in the sand’ with regard to allegations of anti-semitism), Wakeford now truly believes that Starmer will keep the promises that he’s making to the country, those of security, prosperity and respect.
There is, however, a more cynical view that we could take. Labour have led the Conservatives in every poll since the 8th of December last year. In the ‘Red-Wall’ seats, Labour are ahead by some 11 points. It would seem, therefore, that if an election were held today, the Conservatives would lose the Bury South constituency to Labour, and Mr. Wakeford would be out of a job. Sensing this, Wakeford decides to move to the Labour Party, thinking that this is more likely to secure him reelection.
Assuming this to be true, one could reasonably ask whether Wakeford’s political views are compatible with those espoused by his new party. The left-wing pressure group Momentum does not seem to think so, saying that he ‘should be nowhere near the Labour Party’, given that he has voted in line with Boris Johnson’s government fairly consistently. This might suggest that he is simply incompatible with the Labour Party, as Momentum claims. There is more to this, however, than meets the eye, especially given the accusations of Tory whips ‘bullying’ MPs. Wakeford himself claims to have experienced this form of bullying, with then-Education Secretary Gavin Williamson allegedly threatening to cancel the funding for a school in Wakeford’s constituency unless he voted in line with the government against providing free school-meals.
This is not the only time that Wakeford has had disagreements with Boris Johnson’s government. It has been reported that following Johnson’s instructions to vote for a change in MPs conduct regulation, he approached Owen Patterson, the MP at the centre of the controversy, and called him an obscenity. Similarly, Wakeford was the only Conservative MP to support Labour MP Barry Gardiner’s bill that would have outlawed ‘fire-and-rehire’ practises.
Therefore, while it is easy to take the view that Wakeford’s defection to Labour is merely an attempt to hold onto his job as an MP in the so-called ‘Red Wall’, amidst surging Labour support against a historically unpopular Prime Minister, there is also evidence to suggest that Wakeford has always had some idiosyncrasies as far as Conservative politicians go, and that he genuinely believes a Labour government under Keir Starmer would genuinely be most beneficial to his constituents in Bury South.
Originally posted to Blasting News.