Natalie Elphicke apologises for comments about ex-husband’s victims

The now-Labour MP had been criticised by her new party colleagues over comments she made following her ex-husband’s sexual assault conviction.

David Hughes
Thursday 09 May 2024 13:47 BST
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke defected from the Conservatives to Labour on Wednesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke defected from the Conservatives to Labour on Wednesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

New Labour MP Natalie Elphicke has apologised for comments she made supporting her ex-husband after he was convicted of sexual assault, following criticism from her new party colleagues.

Ms Elphicke’s former husband and predecessor as MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, was convicted in 2020 of sexually assaulting two women and jailed for two years.

She ended the marriage after his conviction but supported his unsuccessful appeal, saying Mr Elphicke had been “attractive, and attracted to women” and “an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations”.

The period of 2017 – 2020 was an incredibly stressful and difficult one for me as I learned more about the person I thought I knew

Natalie Elphicke

In a statement on Thursday, Ms Elphicke said she condemned “his behaviour towards other women and towards me”, adding it was “right that he was prosecuted” and she was “sorry for the comments that I made about his victims”.

She said: “The period of 2017 – 2020 was an incredibly stressful and difficult one for me as I learned more about the person I thought I knew. I know it was far harder for the women who had to relive their experiences and give evidence against him.”

Ms Elphicke added: “It is vital that women can have confidence in the criminal justice system and our rates of prosecution and conviction are far too low as a country.

“Keir Starmer’s mission to halve male violence against women and girls is critical and I wanted to take the opportunity to express my explicit support for Labour colleagues working to realise it.”

Following news of Ms Elphicke’s defection on Wednesday, Labour MPs raised concerns about the decision to admit her to the party, citing her comments about Mr Elphicke’s case and his victims.

Jess Phillips, the former shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said Ms Elphicke should “account for her actions”, adding: “I’m all for forgiveness but I do think that that needs some explaining.”

One Labour MP told the PA news agency they thought the decision was “utterly disgraceful”, while another was left in tears by the news.

Earlier on Thursday, Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said Ms Elphicke had already been made accountable for her actions.

She told Times Radio: “Of course, this is an incredibly serious issue and there was a judicial process, quite rightly, around that sexual assault.

“There was accountability for Natalie Elphicke in the fact that there was a parliamentary process around this.

“Now, it’s quite right that there was a parliamentary process, as I say Natalie Elphicke has gone through that, and I believe that she has addressed this in Parliament and in public, and rightly so, because this is a very serious subject.”

Despite the backlash within the Labour Party, the defection was another blow for the Prime Minister, after MP Dan Poulter’s decision to leave the Tories for Labour in April and the dismal local election results for the Conservatives last week.

Announcing her decision to switch parties, Ms Elphicke hit out at Rishi Sunak’s “tired and chaotic government” and accused the Prime Minister of failing to deliver on his promise to “stop the boats”, adding that Labour would “bring a much better future for our country”.

But former prime minister Lord David Cameron said her defection showed Labour stood for nothing.

Answering questions after a speech in London, the Foreign Secretary said: “What does this tell us about the party she’s joining? In life, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

“I thought that’s sort of what yesterday showed, that there isn’t a policy about anything, it’s just been about clearing the decks to try and focus attention on the governing party.”

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