Labour MPs welcome in defection talks to join the Tories, Conservative chairman says

Patrick McLoughlin said he would not publicly disclose talks if he had had them

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Indy Politics

Labour MPs worried about the direction of their party are welcome to enter into talks to join the Conservatives, the Tory party chairman has said.

Patrick McLoughlin said he was “always open” to discussions with defecting opposition and would not publicly disclose if anyone had approached him.

The statement comes after a small number of Labour MPs privately briefed that said they would consider leaving their party if Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected leader.

Mr Corbyn was returned to office by members last week with an increased majority of the vote from party members; no Labour MPs has yet split, however.

“I am always open if people want to talk to me. It is always difficult to leave a party, I understand that,” Mr McLoughlin told the Daily Mirror newspaper.

“I understand the sort of problems that certain Labour MPs are facing but that's up to them to decide.”

Labour MPs considering a split have suggested they are unlikely to join the Conservatives even if they leave their party. 

Other publicly-floated suggestions include setting up a new party, or setting up a pseudo-party within Labour by electing a separate leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Labour MP Jess Phillips told Channel 4 News last month that it would be “incredibly difficult” for her to remain in the party if Mr Corbyn was re-elected. She however said she would not “cross the floor” to the Tories in the event of her leaving the party.

There is precedent for MPs switching between Labour and the Conservatives, however. In 2007 Quentin Davies left the Conservatives and joined Labour; Robert Jackson did the same in 2005.

Defections from Labour to the Conservatives have historically been significantly rarer but in 1977 Reg Prentis crossed the floor in that direction.