Christian Wakeford backed bill that would see defecting MPs face a recall petition and possibly a by-election

Labour’s Rachel Reeves said having a by-election now in Bury South is ‘just not the way our democracy works’ and called instead for a general election

An MP who had defected to Labour from the Conservatives previously backed a bill which would likely see MPs who change party affiliation face a by-election.

Christian Wakeford MP, of Bury South, has said he will not call a by-election after defecting to Labour, while senior Labour figures are instead calling for a general election.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Christian Wakeford defected from the Conservatives to Labour yesterday (19 January) after being in talks with Keir Starmer’s party for “many months” about the move, citing the ‘partygate’ scandals as the just the most recent contributing factor
  • In September 2020, then-Conservative Wakeford co-signed and voted for the Recall of MPs (Change of Party Affiliation) Bill, which would make a recall petition mandatory where an MP changes party 
  • A number of senior Labour figures, including deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have called for a general election, but the party has said it is against a by-election in Bury South , while a number of senior Conservatives have said there must be a by-election 
  • The bill, which did not pass in the last parliament and wasn’t carried over, was put forward by Anthony Mangnall MP and co-signed by a number of 2019 intake Conservative MPs, including Wakeford
  • Wakeford became the first Conservative MP to defect to Labour since Quentin Davies in 2007, whereas the last Labour MP to cross the aisle and join the Tories was Reg Prentice, in October 1977

What’s been said?

Anthony Mangnall MP, introducing the Bill in 2020, made reference to a “septic tank cleaning lorry” in this constituency with the words “full of political promises” on its side.

He said: “The lorry neatly encapsulates the all-too-prevalent view that political promises are not worth the paper they are written on and that politicians are not to be trusted.

“Every generation of politician makes this claim. It was certainly made in 2011, and I am making it nine years later, and I think that I can argue with a greater degree of certainty that it is the case. Last year, 17 Members of Parliament crossed the Floor, leaving the parties they were elected to represent. That was more than had done so in the 16 years previously, and not one of them consulted their constituents.

“In effect, that disenfranchised the 1.2 million electors across their 17 seats for the duration of that Parliament. Although we are not here to follow every instruction from our party’s leadership—and I should know—resigning from the party we were elected as a representative of to campaign for policies diametrically opposed to the ones we were elected to support is clearly a breach of the spirit of the contract between ourselves and our constituents.

“That unwritten bond between ourselves and our electors is the reason I am proposing this Bill.

Asked on GMB whether there should be a by-election, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “I’d like to see a general election, and I think we’d be taking Bury South, Bury North and many other constituencies around the country back into Labour hand’s”

“We vote for a member of parliament for your constituency, their name is on the ballot paper, and as Christian Wakeford has said and as Keir Starmer has said, the Labour party has changed and so has the Conservative party.”

She added: “There’s not going to be a by-election in Bury South, it’s just not the way our democracy works”