As a Labour activist, I don’t want Tories like Christian Wakeford in the party

New Labour MP Christian Wakeford delivers a speech
Wakeford was welcomed by Keir Starmer and many other Labour MPs with open arms (Picture: Getty)

When I saw the news that a Tory MP had defected to the Labour Party just two years after being elected, I was furious.

Christian Wakeford, who represents Bury South, previously served as a local Conservative councillor for eight years. 

The announcement comes at a time Labour have taken a lead in polls, meaning Wakeford (who has one of the smallest majorities in the country) would likely lose his seat as a Tory if an election were to be held tomorrow.

Like many members, I was angry that this man who campaigned against our party and our activists and denied local people a Labour voice year after year, could change his party when it looks to suit his personal ambitions. 

Despite his record and suspicion of his motivations – which he says were a result of Boris Johnson and the Tory Party being incapable of offering the leadership the country deserves – Wakeford was welcomed by Keir Starmer and many other Labour MPs with open arms. 

Labour’s newest MP reportedly met personally with Starmer on Monday, a luxury that serving MP Zarah Sultana says she has never had.

It feels like we the membership and our preferred representatives are being sidelined and our voices silenced. 

While the leadership celebrated and it made the Tories look a little silly, thousands of Labour members were devastated that someone who has spent at least a decade in favour of harmful policies – such as abstaining on a vote to cancel cuts to Universal Credit and voting to allow water companies to dump sewage into rivers and seas – would be gifted a Labour membership and national platform.

It emerged that Wakeford had spent his time insulting Labour members allegedly referring to us as a ‘bunch of c***s’ in his Conservative WhatsApp chats. 

Politics is never a warm and friendly place, but to have MPs embraced into our party who hold such vicious views of us stings. 

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Our members are young people, shop workers, factory workers, posties, nurses, teachers and so much more and they deserve at the very least, Christian Wakeford’s respect.

Members of Bury South Constituency Labour Party have spent the last decade campaigning against Wakeford and his colleagues who have enforced austerity policies on their community.

It comes as no surprise that many of them feel completely demoralised that a Tory looks set to take the place of their 2019 election candidate – popular community activist Lucy Burke. 

Westminster politicians playing politics with Labour members’ hard work, sacrifice and commitment has damaging consequences on their belief in democracy and their willingness to be part of the Labour Party.  

Many members have already said to me they will have no choice but to leave should they be forced to campaign for Christian or other potential Tory switchers, which would be a devastating loss to our party.

As someone who joined Labour nearly 10 years ago after experiencing first-hand the impact of Tory policies, I’ve been involved in many local elections, by-elections and campaigns across the country. 

Most of our campaigners and candidates are working class members who continue to work their full-time jobs. For us, elections are one of the most exhausting experiences we go through, many of us taking unpaid leave from work to make it possible.

For activists, our experience is very different from the heated campaigns you see on TV.

We spend six weeks pounding the streets day and night, rain or shine, battling 5am starts, fighting off mud slinging, late night strategy meetings, struggling with outdated software to create party newsletters, anxiously facing your opponents at husting after husting and not seeing friends or family. 

The last general election brought with it one of the most vicious campaigns any of us in the party have seen with Labour activists in the freezing temperatures being shouted at, harassed, and even assaulted. 

It feels like we the membership and our preferred representatives are being sidelined and our voices silenced 

But one of the things that makes it possible to keep getting out of bed to doorstep again are the fellow Labour members and volunteers who hold a shared ambition to bring about change in society and are determined to make it happen. 

Putting a Tory at the centre of those local campaigns risks it all falling apart.

For us frontline activists, Labour is not a football team whose shirt we wear. Our party is about what we believe in, how we think people should be treated and what kind of future we want to build. 

Christian Wakeford and his fellow Conservatives share little to none of these values. As an MP he has spent his time voting in favour of the authoritarian Nationality and Borders Bill and referred to the BBC’s coverage of Black Lives Matter as a ‘namby pamby approach.’

Are we really supposed to believe he has drastically changed his long-held views in a matter of days?

As activists we are always looking to win over voters, we know that we need to share our vision and communicate that there is a better way of governing the country – but we do this with our own brilliant activists and candidates that are at the heart of their communities, not by adopting Tory MPs switching sides to save their £80k salaries.

When we campaign we have thousands of conversations with people who have voted Tory, sometimes all their lives. Because of these discussions, many of these voters decide that actually Labour is the party that will deliver for their community and we are thrilled to have their support.

But in Wakeford’s case, this isn’t simply a voter changing their mind, this is a man who has used his position to vote through harmful policies that go against what it means to be Labour, with the party’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves insisting his values have not changed.  

It’s time for a by-election in Bury South, with local Labour members choosing who they want their candidate to be. 

If Christian Wakeford and any other Tories thinking of defecting have truly changed their views, they will resign for their part in supporting this lying government and dedicate themselves to campaigning for democratically chosen Labour candidates just like the rest of us.

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