John McDonnell discussed Christian Wakeford’s defection to Labour but was less than impressed with the move as he questioned whether Mr Wakeford agreed with the core principles of the party. Mr McDonnell had looked at Mr Wakeford’s voting record and believed it went against what was at the centre of Labour and ultimately questioned his “socialist credentials”. The former Labour frontbencher added he believed the move was a “stunt” which was motivated more by personal grievances and threats rather than an ideological shift.
Speaking on Times Radio, Mr McDonnell was asked by presenter Cathy Newman whether he was “pleased” to see Mr Wakeford on the opposition benches.
Mr McDonnell replied: “I wasn’t particularly pleased, to be honest, I know it’s a bit of a political stunt and it might well have damaged the Conservatives in some way.
“But looking at some of his past statements and his past voting record, to be honest, I don’t see him as a Labour MP.
“I was brought up a Roman Catholic so I’m a great believer in the powers of conversion but on this one has strained even my belief in it.”
Mr McDonnell was then asked why he thought Mr Wakeford had joined Labour if he did not align with the party ideologically.
He continued: “It may well be because for a whole range of reasons, it looks as though he was under threat from boundary commission, changes in his constituency itself.
“And also most probably was because he has been threatened so much on his own side.
“So he might well have reacted against that, but I have to say I doubt his socialist credentials…
Mr Wakeford announced his defection a few moments before Prime Minister’s Questions was due to happen and crossed the chamber to the opposition benches to cheers and boos.
The former Tory backbencher, who secured the “red wall” seat of Bury South in 2019, said he had grown “disillusioned” by the Tories.
He also accused Boris Johnson of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.
On his decision to defect, Mr Wakeford said: “I was threatened that I would not get the school for Radcliffe if I did not vote in one particular way.
“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.”