Christian Wakeford made headlines recently by being the first Conservative MP to cross the floor in 15 years. His motivation largely surrounded the Tories’ latest scandal that now threatens to bring down the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Labour held vigorous talks with the MP from Bury South before accepting him into the party’s fold.

A Win for Labour?

From one perspective, the change of allegiance is an absolute win for Labour. They can claim to be winning over Conservative voters following the party’s new direction post-Corbyn. They can also use this as a warning: Labour is now a safe haven for detractors.

Part of Labour’s grand strategy has been to return Red Wall voters who turned blue in 2019. Wakeford’s change of ideological direction is a signal to voters that the tide is once again turning in favour of Labour.

A Tactical Move

Christian Wakeford has been a consistent supporter of the Conservative government throughout his time as an MP. Always critical of Labour, he even called the party ‘A bunch of c***s’ a year ago. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Wakeford is a Conservative through and through. Amongst his typical Tory traits, one can include voting against allowing free school meals to be extended over the summer, at the height of the pandemic; voting against measures to curb climate change; and, voting against measures to curb tax avoidance.

In the simplest sense, Wakeford is a Conservative MP who is now wearing a red tie — having abandoned a sinking ship like a rat. As an MP for Bury South, his majority was an unremarkable 0.8 per cent (402 votes). Polling suggests that by the next election he would have lost his seat anyway. Given the evidence, the pantomime of moral values is all well and good, but at the end of the day, this is a switch to save his career.

The switch also poses an important question, one that has haunted Keir Starmer’s Labour. Namely: what are Labours values? If they can accept a Tory MP with a proven track record of being hostile to the party’s core values, what will they pitch to the public? — ‘Vote for us! We want Britain to be more polite’

It becomes debatable whether Labour can seriously pitch economic or social transformation to voters when they’re so quick to accept a true blue Tory. They can make their case for why it’s good, but at the end of the day, politics is not a battle between two football teams where players can easily switch sides. Politics is about ideology and vision. Labour and Tories are so politically opposed that the idea of MPs switching teams should be logically absurd.

Whom Are We Voting For?

What are voters to think of all this? This change in party allegiance could signal a return to political apathy. If parties cannot pitch themselves on values but on personal appearance, then we’re back to the cult of personality. Indeed, it seems that no matter whom we vote for the end result will be the maintenance of the status quo.

Labour is already haemorrhaging members and the wealth of young voters they banked on in 2017 and 2019 won’t show up in 2024. Even if Labour wins the next election, they will likely end up as the U.S. Democrats; in power but doing nothing with it.

If I vote Labour, who’s Labour am I voting for? The party of Christian Wakeford? Starmer? Corbyn? A broad church can be a good thing for parties and winning elections, but progress can only come when core values are in place.

The Wakeford effect will likely be minimal. It won’t bring down the Prime Minister or significantly alter the polling of any party. However, it does reveal a problem with Labour. In order to distance itself from Corbynism, the party has willingly become a broad church — only to risk bringing back widespread political apathy.

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