Jeremy Hunt admits Conservative MPs ‘losing their nerve’ after Ephicke defection

As Tory MPs panic over who could be next to cross the floor to Labour

Kate Devlin
Friday 10 May 2024 14:48 BST
Natalie Elphicke defection a ‘powerful endorsement' of Labour, Streeting claims

Jeremy Hunt has admitted Conservative MPs are “losing their nerve” as they continue to be trounced by Labour in the polls.

Westminster was stunned this week with the shock defection of Tory MP Natalie Elphicke to Labour.

The move added to Rishi Sunak’s woes just days after he appeared to see off Tory rebels keen to oust him, after bruising devastating local election results.

Ben Houchen, the Tory Mayor of the Tees Valley, has also urged Mr Sunak to get a grip of his party as he warned the “public do not vote for parties who are not united”.

Asked about both Lord Houchen’s comments and Ms Elphicke’s defection said: “What he (Houchen) said was divided parties don’t win elections and we need to pull together as a Conservative Party.

“I think that when you see we are behind in the polls, unfortunately some colleagues do lose their nerve.” He added: “But the vast majority of parliamentary colleagues, they understand a very simple truth which is that people vote for Conservative governments because they trust us to take tough and difficult decisions in the long term interests of the economy. They can see that we have done that.”

His comment come as Tory MPs panic over who could be next to defect to Labour.

Many admit they were blindsided by Ms Elphicke’s decision to cross the floor, as she has been seen as one of the most right wing on the party’s benches.

Her defection came hot on the heels of ex-Tory MP Dan Poulter, who joined Keir Starmer’s team last month.

But Westminster is awash with rumours another Tory politician is soon to make the jump.

Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)
Jeremy Hunt (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has told the Independent he has spoken to Conservatives contemplating defection because of the “division and incompetence” of Mr Sunak’s government.

He insisted that Labour would not take just any Tory MP, adding: "If Liz Truss were to want to cross the floor, and I don't imagine she would, I would rather take the lettuce."

He added: "I've been speaking to other Conservative MPs in parliament, who are wrestling with their future in the Conservative Party. I've no doubt that wasn't an easy decision for [Ms Elphicke] to come over. Whether other people make the leap, I think remains to be seen.

"I think there are plenty of Conservatives who are thinking about their future in the Conservative Party and definitely take Labour seriously.

"If I had a pound for every Conservative MP, who has said, 'I think it's a mess and up to you guys [Labour] to sort this out, we need a period of opposition', I would be doing pretty well off."

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