What are the Rules on MPs Switching Political Parties?

Pulling Opponant to Your Side With MagnetAnother week, another set of disasters for Boris Johnson.

With his job as prime minister teetering by a thread, it has been reported that as many as 12 letters of no confidence have been handed in by members of his own Conservative Party this week. David Davis, a Tory MP since about 1873, has also called on him to resign.

Those were followed by allegations of blackmail within the Conservative ranks. Those MPs looking to rebel and elbow Boris out of Downing Street have allegedly been met with emailed threats of investment being pulled from their constituencies, or being demoted as part of future boundary changes.

William Wragg, the chair of the public administration committee, has suggested that he has seen the emails in question, and said: “In recent days, a number of members of parliament have faced pressures and intimidation from members of the government because of their declared or assumed desire for a vote of confidence in the party leadership of the prime minister.

“It is not their function to breach the ministerial code in threatening to withdraw investments from members of parliament’s constituencies, which are funded from the public purse.”

But perhaps the biggest blow of all to the Conservatives is the defection of Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South. He was a vital member of the former ‘Red Wall’, which saw Labour humbled in the last general election when they lost a number of what were considered safe seats in the north.

Is Wakeford’s switching of allegiances from Conservative to Labour the straw that will break Boris’ metaphorical back?

Are MPs Allowed to Switch Political Parties?

Labour v Conservative

Wakeford had first approached the Labour Party in the summer, detailing his discontent at the way that the government was operating.

The 37-year-old has spoken of how disappointed he was that the Tories withdrew the £20 Universal Credit boost, and claimed that party whips were acting as enforcers to bully the government’s intentions through key votes.

As a Conservative MP that won his Bury South seat on the back of traditional Tory values, Wakeford is likely to be a prized asset in Keir Starmer’s backroom, and his presence will signal a marked switch from Jeremy Corbyn’s almost socialist politics that came before him. Perhaps that will be key to rebuilding the red wall….

But it does lead to an interesting question: if an MP is elected based upon the political party that they represent, how come they are allowed to simply join another party without a local election in their constituency?

This process is loosely termed ‘crossing the floor’, and is represented in the Commons by an MP walking from one side of the room to join the benches on the other – a walk Wakeford made for the first time at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday when he was plonked on a seat behind Starmer for the impassioned session.

It was a walk that Winston Churchill made twice, first from the Conservatives to the Liberals in 1904 and then back the other way in 1924.

House of Commons statutes allow for an elected MP to change parties, and there is no precedent for that triggering an automatic by-election. “A convention that the Member changing parties does not resign to fight a by-election accords with the arguments of Edmund Burke in the late 18th century,” the rulebook reads.

It’s a bold play from Wakeford and a hammer blow for Johnson to lose one of his northern MPs, although it should be noted that the Bury South constituency was decided by just 402 seats in the last election there.

Boris Johnson Exit Date Betting

Boris Johnson Betting Odds

Taking to the Betfair Exchange, it seems as though the punting public is as downbeat on Boris’ hopes for a revival of fortunes as many in the Commons are.

The PM is priced at just 1.23 not to quit by January 31, however the odds on a vote of no confidence being passed have shrunk from 3.15 to 2.96 – or about 2/1 in old money.

As for his likely exit date, 2022 has shortened to an all-time low of 1/3 with a number of the leading bookmakers.

The Tories are still a short 1.70 to win the most seats at the next general election, and 3.05 to claim a majority – no overall majority has been nipped in to an odds-on 1.97.

And should Boris walk or be pushed, Rishi Sunak is still the most likely replacement in 10 Downing Street according to the layers. He’s priced at 2.68 to get the nod as PM.