Christian Wakeford: Red Wall Partygate sleaze critic

Christian Wakeford: Red Wall sleaze critic with wafer-thin majority who lashed out at Boris over Partygate and called Owen Paterson a c*** before joining Keir Starmer’s Labour – but could his shock defection HELP the PM?

  • The 37-year-old has been a vocal critic of the Prime Minister over Partygate
  • Made headlines during the Owen Paterson lobbying saga with foul-mouthed rant
  • Told ex-minister he was a c*** as they met in a division lobby over sleaze rules 

Christian Wakeford had made little secret of his fury with Boris Johnson and the stench of sleaze emanating from the Conservative Party before his defection to Labour. 

The 37-year-old has been a vocal critic of the Prime Minister over Partygate and made headlines during the Owen Paterson lobbying saga with a foul-mouthed rant at the former minister.

Amid the chaos over the PM’s attempts to spare Paterson  from censure for lobbying for firms paying him a six-figure sum the father-of-one approached the then North Shropshire MP and called him a ‘c***’ for causing the situation.

It came after the Government instructed MPs to vote to change parliamentary sleaze rules to help out the former Northern Ireland Secretary, who later quit as an MP.

His decision to cross the floor to Labour today was the strongest manifestation of disgust at weeks and weeks of sleaze. 

But critics will point to the size of Mr Wakeford’s majority as well. He took the seat in 2019 – one of the Red Wall victories which propelled Boris Johnson to his massive election win. 

It was the first time the area had gone blue since 1997, but his majority is just 402 votes, one of the thinnest in the country. New polling today by Channel Four and JL Partners shows the Tories on course to lose his seat, along with 41 other Red Wall seats they took three years ago.

His move could also act as a pressure valve over Partygate for Boris, shocking fellow would-be rebels into calming down and taking attention off the PM himself. 

Also, his defection has not been welcomed by all in Labour, however. In a tweet, the leftwing Yong Labour organisation said: ‘Christian Wakeford MP should not be admitted to the Labour Party. 

The 37-year-old has been a vocal critic of the Prime Minister over Partygate and made headlines during the Owen Paterson lobbying saga with a foul-mouthed rant at the former minister.

Before entering politics, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University. He is married to Alexandria (pictured together after he won Bury South in 2019)

Critics will point to the size of Mr Wakeford’s majority. He took the seat in 2019 – one of the Red Wall victories which propelled Boris Johnson to his massive election win.

Who is lining up against Boris Johnson? 

Ring leaders 

Dehenna Davison

Alicia Kearns

Gary Sambrook

Chris Loder

Other red wall assassins

Mark Logan

Lee Anderson:

Ian Levy

Simon Fell

Antony Higginbotham

Paul Howell

Robin Millar

Robert Largan

2019ers not in Red Wall seats

Ben Spencer

Greg Smith

Danny Kruger

Julie Marson

Anthony Browne 

‘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.’

Mr Wakeford announced his decision in the Bury Times and sent a letter to Mr Johnson explaining why he had lost patience with his leadership.

Mr Wakeford said: “I care passionately about the people of Bury South and I have concluded that the policies of the Conservative government that you lead are doing nothing to help the people of my constituency and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse.

“Britain needs a government focused on tackling the cost of living crisis and providing a path out of the pandemic that protects living standards and defends the security of all.

“It needs a government that upholds the highest standards of integrity and probity in public life and sadly both you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves.”

Mr Wakeford had been one of seven Tory MPs to publicly call for Mr Johnson to quit.

But Mr Johnson claimed the Tories could hold Bury South without him. Sir Keir goaded the PM  in the Commons that any more defectors were ‘welcome’, saying the Tories had shown they were ‘incapable’ of governing the country.

But Mr Johnson shot back: ‘As for Bury South, let me say to him, the Conservative Party won Bury South for the first time in a generation under this Prime Minister on an agenda of of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South. We will win again in Bury South.’

Boris Johnson is under huge pressure over Partygate, with speculation that he might even opt to walk away.

But barring resignation, the Tories have rules on how to oust and replace the leader. 

What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader? 

 Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.

How is that triggered? 

 A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 54 MPs.

Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are. 

What happens when the threshold is reached? 

A secret ballot is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs

But in reality, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.

What happens if the leader loses? 

The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.

However, when the party is in power the outgoing leader typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected.

There is no requirement for a general election to be held, unless the new PM wants to call one.  

Before entering politics, Mr Wakeford worked for a telecommunications firm having studied politics at Lancaster University. He is married to Alexandria and they have a young daughter.

He has served as a Tory councillor on Lancashire County Council since 2013 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. 

He hit the headlines last year over a boozy trip to Gibraltar, in which the behaviour of MPs was criticised.

He and another Conservative on the trip were accused of carousing into the early hours on a visit to UK armed forces in the Mediterranean enclave.

The claims came after three opposition MPs were accused of drinking heavily before arriving in the British Overseas Territory with the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme – with one apparently having to be taken out of the airport in a wheelchair.

The SNP’s David Linden and Drew Hendry and Labour’s Charlotte Nichols were slated for showing a ‘lack of respect’ by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace after the ‘drunken’ display.

In his resignation letter, Mr Wakeford wrote: ‘My decision is about much more than your leadership and the disgraceful way you have conducted yourself in recent weeks.

‘However, I don’t believe all politicians are the same and I do believe in the power of politics to be a force for good. So does Keir Starmer.

‘He has shown that integrity in the way he has led his party on issues that matter to me, not least the vital challenge of combatting antisemitism.’

Sir Keir said Mr Wakeford had always put his constituents ‘first’.

‘As Christian said, the policies of the Conservative government are doing nothing to help the people of Bury South and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse.’

It is the first defection from the Tories to Labour in 15 years, since Quentin Davies jumped ship. It comes amid claims that Mr Johnson wept as he begged MPs for more time last night.

The PM is alleged to have broken down in tears as he met wavering backbenchers yesterday – with one reportedly saying he ‘knows he is finished’.

No10 denied the claims amid a febrile atmosphere at Westminster, but it underlines the threat to his leadership as rebels gear up for a bid to oust him.

Mr Wakeford (back row, far left) hit the headlines last year over a boozy trip to Gibraltar, in which the behaviour of MPs was criticised. He and another Conservative on the trip were accused of carousing into the early hours on a visit to UK armed forces in the Mediterranean enclave

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