Boris Johnson has been hit by the defection of a Red Wall MP to Labour as the Prime Minister battles to save his leadership.
Bury South MP Christian Wakeford said the country needs a government that “upholds the highest standards of integrity and probity”, but told Mr Johnson “both you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.
His move was announced just minutes before a session of Prime Minister’s Questions, with the timing calculated to cause maximum damage to Mr Johnson.
Mr Wakeford won Bury South, which had elected a Labour MP at every election since 1997, in 2019.
He 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.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “I would like to welcome Christian Wakeford to the Labour Party. He has always put the people of Bury South first.”
He added: “People across Britain face a cost-of-living crisis but this incompetent Tory government is asleep at the wheel, distracted by a chaos of its own making.
“Meanwhile families, businesses and pensioners are suffering from the Conservative failure to tackle rising food, fuel and energy prices.”
Sir Keir began Prime Minister’s Questions by “warmly welcoming” Mr Wakeford to his new party.
Mr Wakeford was cheered by Labour MPs as he arrived in the Chamber and sat behind Sir Keir for the Commons showdown with Mr Johnson.
The Prime Minister told Sir Keir: “The Conservative Party won Bury South for the first time in a generation under this Prime Minister on an agenda of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South. We will win again in Bury South.”
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said Mr Wakeford “has yet to realise that the Union Jack mask he is wearing to cross the floor to Labour, is not welcome on that side of the house”.
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.
— Young Labour (@YoungLabourUK) January 19, 2022
Labour’s youth wing did not echo Sir Keir’s welcome for Mr Wakeford.
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.”
Mr Wakeford’s decision to cross the floor led to calls for him to trigger a by-election.
In 2020 he supported a backbench Bill which called for any MP who switches parties to face a recall petition.
Asked whether there should be a by-election, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “I think that that is up to the constituents of Bury South.”