British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took another blow on Wednesday when an MP from the ruling Conservative Party defected to the opposition Labor Party.
Christian Wakeford, MP for Bury South, elected in 2019 with a narrow majority of 402, announced he had defected to Labor, accusing Johnson of being “unable to offer the leadership and government this country deserves.”
His move was announced just minutes before the Prime Minister’s Questions meeting, with the timing apparently timed to inflict maximum damage on Johnson.
Wakeford was one of the Conservative MPs recruited in 2019 who won in the so-called Red Walls, the traditional Labor constituencies in the north of England that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Brexit. Bury South has elected a Labor MP in every election since 1997.
In a letter to Johnson explaining why he had become impatient with his leadership, Wakeford said: “I care passionately for the people of Bury South and I have come to the conclusion that the policies of the Conservative government you lead are doing nothing to help the people of Bury South.” South. my constituency and really only exacerbate the struggles they face on a daily basis.”
He said Britain “needs a government that upholds the highest standards of integrity and honesty in public life”, but both the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party as a whole “have shown themselves unable to offer the leadership and government that this country deserves”.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer began The Prime Minister’s Questions by welcoming Wakeford “warmly” to his new party.
In response, the Prime Minister told Starmer: “The Conservative Party has won Bury South for the first time in a generation under this Prime Minister on the agenda of uniting, leveling and helping the people of Bury South. We will win again in Bury South.”
Johnson’s spokeswoman later said that the Prime Minister “regretted” Wakeford’s defection to Labour, but said she was unaware of any further pending Conservative MP defections.
Wakeford was one of seven Conservative MPs who publicly called for Johnson to step down after the Prime Minister acknowledged that he attended a meeting in the Downing Street Garden on 20 May 2020 for about 25 minutes when COVID-19 rules 19 forbade socializing in the open air.
At the prime minister’s question on Wednesday, senior Conservative MP David Davis became the latest MP to call for Johnson to step down.
He told Johnson, “You’ve been sitting here too long to do anything good. In the name of God, go.”
Johnson apologized again for the “party” saga, but refused to resign and said senior official Sue Gray’s investigation should “come out with an explanation of what happened.”
PA Media contributed to this report.