A former Conservative MP who defected and joined Labour has claimed he was threatened with the loss of a school in his constituency if he did not vote the way party bosses wanted him to.
Christian Wakeford, who represents Bury South, switched parties on Wednesday.
He accused Boris Johnson of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves” amid the continuing controversy over Downing Street parties during COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
‘It didn’t sit comfortably’
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Wakeford said the “threat” left him questioning his position in the Conservative Party.
A Labour source has said the vote related to free school meals.
“I was threatened that I would not get the school for Radcliffe if I did not vote in one particular way,” Mr Wakeford said.
“This is a town that’s not had a high school for the best part of 10 years, and how would you feel when holding back the regeneration of a town for a vote?
“It didn’t sit comfortably and that was when I was really starting to question my place, where I was, and ultimately where I am now.”
The Manchester Evening News reported in February 2021 that the “long awaited high school in Radcliffe” had been given the green light by ministers as one of four new free schools in Greater Manchester.
Bury county councillor Mike Smith, who represents Radcliffe West, said a request for planning permission for the school was due to be submitted early this year.
The first intake of pupils is expected in September 2024.
‘Incredibly warm welcome’
Speaking alongside Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves at an event in Bury, Mr Wakeford said his new party was “ready to provide an alternative government that this country can be proud of and deserves, and certainly not to be embarrassed by, and this is one of the reasons why I’m here today”.
He told reporters after the speech that he had been given an “incredibly warm welcome” from the party and said any former Tory colleagues thinking about following his lead should “give me a shout”.
Mr Wakeford’s claim of a threat comes after a senior Conservative MP alleged fellow Tories who want the PM to resign have been intimidated by party whips.
William Wragg, chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, said a “number of MPs have faced intimidation” in recent days after declaring, or assumed to have declared, their desire for a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson.
The PM said he had seen “no evidence to support any of those allegations” but “of course” he would look at any evidence presented to him.
Mr Wakeford had been one of the Tory MPs who submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson and was said to have been “hauled” in by the Tory chief whip the night before he defected.
A Conservative MP told Sky News it “sent him over the edge when they threatened his seat” with having its boundary changed.
“This is what bully tactics look like,” the MP said.