Tory Manchester mayoral candidate Dan Barker defects to Reform party

The Conservative candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester has defected to the Reform party as he accused his former party of having “given up” on the north of England.

Dan Barker was set to face the current mayor, Labour’s Andy Burnham, as the Conservative candidate in May.

However, on Thursday he announced that he had joined Reform UK, following fellow senior Tory Lee Anderson who defected earlier this month.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Barker said the Tories have abandoned the north to focus on southern seats under threat from the Liberal Democrat party.

Convention of the North 2024
Dan Barker was set to face the current mayor, Labour’s Andy Burnham, as the Conservative candidate in May (Danny Lawson/PA)

“You can see that from inside the party, what they are really doing is trying to protect the blue wall in the South East and the South West because they fear that the Liberal Democrats are going to annihilate them.”

A Tory source said that the party has to be “realistic” about its prospects

“The Conservatives received under 20% of the vote in Manchester in 2021,” the source said.

“We have to be realistic about our prospects in this election and allocate resources accordingly.”

Some Tories see Reform UK as a challenger at the general election expected this year with signs of growing support for the party as it polls at around 10% of national voting intention.

Brexiteer Nigel Farage is the honorary president of the party, which is seeking to attract disillusioned Conservative voters, mainly over the issues of immigration and net zero.

Party leader Richard Tice has ruled out standing aside to avoid splitting the Leave vote in some seats, as the party did under its Brexit Party name in 2019.

While it has been successful at attracting defections from the Tories, Reform has also lost a number of candidates following a series of controversies in the past month, including Nick Davies in North Bedfordshire, Ginny Ball in Rutland and Stamford, David Carpin in Henley and Thame, Benjamin “Beau” Dade in Swindon South, and Roger Hoe in Beverley and Holderness.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –