Greater Manchester Tory mayoral candidate Dan Barker defects to Reform UK

The Conservative candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester has defected to Reform UK.

Dan Barker announced his defection on social media at lunchtime today, accusing his former party of ‘giving up’ on Greater Manchester and the north.

The Greater Manchester mayoral election is set to be held on May 2, in which Barker will now be standing as the Reform UK candidate against the current mayor, Labour’s Andy Burnham. 

Barker said in a post on social media: “Delighted to be joining the new home of conservatism with Reform UK. 

“Reform represents the ordinary people of this country.”

Speaking to the BBC, Barker said that the Conservatives had abandoned the north to instead focus on defending seats in the south.

He said: “I think they’ve given up on Greater Manchester and the north of England.

“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.”

Barker is expected to set out his new campaign on Sunday in a speech in Salford. 

In a statement provided to The Independent, Reform UK said: “Reform is delighted that Dan Barker has joined us. He is an excellent candidate and will be a great representative for Reform and Manchester.

“He knows that today, if you believe in the future of this city, and this country, then Reform is to the future, as the Tories are to the past.”

Barker had previously criticised proposals for a clean air zone in Greater Manchester, describing it as a ‘Trojan horse’ that would lead to ULEZ expansion. 

Speaking to the MEN yesterday, he also said that, if elected Mayor, he would bring policing under his direct control. 

It comes ten days after Lee Anderson, the former Conservative Party deputy chair, defected to Reform UK, becoming the party’s first MP. 

Anderson had been suspended by the Conservative party after he refused to apologise for comments he made about the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan that were criticised as Islamophobic. 

Reform UK, previously called the Brexit Party, was founded by Nigel Farage and is currently led by the businessman Richard Tice.  

Polling from YouGov released this morning showed Reform UK at 15%,  just four points behind the Conservatives who are at 19%.

Reform has been steadily climbing in recent months and is planning to target a number of ‘red wall’ seats in the upcoming general election that were won by the Conservatives under Boris Johnson in 2019. 

The Conservative party said that the process to find a new candidate for the Greater Manchester mayoral election would begin shortly. 

The BBC has reported a Conservative party source as having said: “The Conservatives received under 20% of the vote in Manchester in 2021. 

“We have to be realistic about our prospects in this election.”

Andy Burnham, who won the 2021 mayoral election with 67% of the vote in the first round, described the situation as a ‘sinking ship’.

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