The Granada Debate: Is the Prime Minister's blue wall about to collapse?

MPs James Daly and Chris Matheson join political correspondent Lise McNally on January's installment of the Granada Debate.

On this episode, the panel discuss MP William Wragg's accusations against his own party, a Bury South MP's defection to Labour and if the Prime Minister's new blue wall is about to collapse.

On the panel for January's edition of The Granada Debate:

  • James Daly, the Conservative MP for Bury North

  • Chris Matheson, the Labour MP for the City of Chester and Shadow Minister for Digital Culture, Media and Sport

  • Amreen Qureshi, the Institute for Public Policy Research North

MP for Hazel Grove William Wragg accused Number 10 of "blackmail". Credit: PA

The Prime Minister has faced a difficult few weeks. First, he had to apologise to MPs, the Queen and the country about lockdown drinking in Downing Street.

On Wednesday, the Conservative MP for Bury South announced he was defecting to Labour.

And on Thursday accusations of blackmail and intimidation from one of his own, the Hazel Grove MP William Wragg.

The senior Tory claims the government has been trying to strong-arm rebels into supporting Boris Johnson. Number 10 says it is not aware of any evidence for Mr Wragg's allegations.

Speaking to political correspondent Lise McNally on The Granada Debate, Conservative MP for Bury North James Daly said he has never experienced what Mr Wragg is suggesting.

He said: "The whips are there to secure government business and they're in every political party so it's very difficult for me to something that I haven't experienced personally - that people haven't told me about."

Mr Daly went on to say that during the first lockdown he rebelled against certain measures the government were taking, he said: "Nobody threatened me.

"Nobody came to me and said we're taking away funding."

But the allegations, according to Chris Matheson, the Labour MP for the City of Chester, "is becoming a pattern" within Boris Johnson's government.

He said: "In the towns' fund, they refused to give any money to Ellsmere Port, when the town centre was very run down.

"But they gave money to the Secretary of State's town which was much less deprived."

This week, MP Christian Wakeford crossed the Commons following revelations about lockdown parties in Downing Street.

He said his defection to Labour took "many months of soul-searching", blaming a several factors including free school meals, universal credit and party-gate.

But James Daly says Christian Wakeford's comments on the Conservative Party not debating particular topics "is absolute rubbish" and said "they are talked about endlessly" in a Whatsapp group.

"When I saw him crossing the floor I was astounded, clearly bitterly disappointed", he said.

There have been calls from Conservative MPs, constituents from Bury South and Young Labour for a by-election after Christian Wakeford's defection to the Labour party.

But MP Chris Matheson said there is no need for a by-election. He said: "When Boris Johnson was elected leader of the Conservative Party and became Prime Minister, he didn't immediately call a general election.

"So, there's no reason why Christian should go through that now. He's been elected with his name on the ballot paper and he'll be there until the next general election - and hopefully beyond."

The think tank highlighted three main points from what it called "stark results" in its annual health check of the economy of the North. Credit: PA

Levelling up

A cost of living crisis biting household finances all across the North West, many are wondering how the Government's promise to "level up" left behind communities in the region will be realised. 

It was a key part of the 2019 election campaign, backed by a fund of £4.8 billion pounds for investing in high streets, transport and culture. 

However, a new report by leading think tank IPPR claims this is more rhetoric than reality with figures showing for every job created in the North almost three were created in the South East.

The levelling up fund invested £32 per person in the North, which is a drop of £413 over the last decade.

Meanwhile, the number of people in the North who are in poverty, despite working, has risen to 3.5 million in the same time period.

One of the report's authors, Amreen Qureshi, who is from the Institute for Public Policy Research North, explains how the North-South divide is actually growing.