Defect meaning: why Tory MP Christian Wakefield has moved to Labour Party - what defecting means in politics

Boris Johnson lost one of his newest MPs from Bury South in a dramatic defection to Labour minutes before PMQs began

Tory MP Christian Wakeford has defected to the Labour party, at a time when the Prime Minister is battling to save his leadership.

The Bury South MP said the country needs a government that “upholds the highest standards of integrity and probity”, as Boris Johnson is accused of attending Downing Street parties which broke Covid restrictions he set himself.

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So, what does the term defected mean in politics - and why has former Tory MP Christian Wakeford turned Labour?

A view of Bury South MP Christian Wakeford sitting on the opposition benches during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (image: PA)

What does defected mean in politics speak?

In politics, a person who has defected usually gives up allegiance from one political party to another.

In Christian Wakeford’s case, it involves changing political sides and abandoning the Tory Party to bat for Labour.

When did Christian Wakeford become a Labour MP?

Mr Wakeford won Bury South as a Tory MP in 2019 and is one of Boris Johnson’s newest MPs.

Bury South had elected a Labour MP at every election since 1997 and now, as of 19 January, the seat is red again.

After ditching the Tory party over the partygate scandal, Mr Wakeford defected just minutes before a session of Prime Minister’s Questions, with the timing calculated to cause maximum damage to Mr Johnson.

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

He was also one of the seven Tory MPs to publicly call for Mr Johnson to quit and timed his announcement ahead of PMQs.

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.”

Sir Keir began Prime Minister’s Questions by “warmly welcoming” Mr Wakeford to his new party where he was cheered by Labour MPs as he arrived in the Chamber and sat behind Sir Keir for the Commons showdown with Mr Johnson.

A view of Bury South MP Christian Wakeford (centre back, in Union Flag mask) sitting on the opposition benches as Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (image: PA)

Which MPs have defected before?

Christian Wakeford certainly isn’t the first to leave his original party and he definitley won’t be the last.

In the not too distant past, three other Tory MPs ditched the Conservatives - only this time over the governments handling of Brexit.

Conservative MP Phillip Lee for Bracknell defected to the Liberal Democrats in 2019 accusing Boris Johnson of pursuing a ‘damaging Brexit’. He crossed the floor right in front of the prime minister’s very eyes to take his seat on the opposition benches as the PM addressed the Commons.

East Surrey MP Sam Gyimah was expelled by the Tories in 2019 after voting against the government on Brexit. He also defected to the Liberal Democracts on the first day of the party’s conference in Bournemouth.

Ex-MP Heidi Allen formed part of Change UK - a breakaway party including members of Parliaments from Conservative and Labour parties.(Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Former Totnes Tory MP Sarah Wollaston defected sides twice over the governments handling of Brexit. After moving to Change UK in February 2019, she then changed political sides again to the Liberal Democrats in August.

Change UK, which was initially called the Independent Group, caused probably the biggest stir in Westminster in terms of politicians leaving their parties. When it was launched in February 2019, seven MPs announced their deflections from Labour.

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