Natalie Elphicke: Labour face angry backlash over Tory defector’s ‘gaslighting’ women’s rights record

Labour councillor who ran against Ms Elphicke accuses her of ‘gaslighting other women during and around’ trial of her ex-husband

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Wednesday 08 May 2024 18:24 BST
Natalie Elphicke has defected to Labour from the Tories (David Woolfall/UK Parliament)
Natalie Elphicke has defected to Labour from the Tories (David Woolfall/UK Parliament) (PA Media)

Natalie Elphicke’s defection to Labour has raised concerns among some in Keir Starmer’s party who condemned her defence of her former husband who was imprisoned after being charged with sexual assault.

After Charlie Elphicke was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against two women, the MP for Dover said he had been punished for being “attractive” and being “attracted to women”.

Ms Elphicke, who defected to the Labour Party on Wednesday, was temporarily suspended from the Commons in 2021 for trying to influence his trial and was forced to apologise.

Charlotte Cornell, a Labour councillor who ran against Ms Elphicke in Dover in 2019, told The Independent: “Her comments minimised what was predatory behaviour and sexual abuse. 

“It is one of the reasons I find today really hard to understand. I know there will be women in the local area who are incredibly upset by today’s decision.”

Ms Cornell, who is a cabinet member on Canterbury City Council, accused Ms Elphicke of “gaslighting other women during and around“ the time of the trial of her former husband.

She added: “She has held fervent anti-union positions. She has mocked Marcus Rashford and anti-child poverty initiatives.”

Ms Elphicke criticised Mr Rashford for missing a penalty in the Euro 2020 final, saying he should be “perfecting his game” rather than “playing politics” after he campaigned against child food poverty.

Ms Cornell argued there are “huge questions“ surrounding the political views which Ms Elphicke holds.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with former Tory MP Natalie Elphicke in his parliamentary office (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with former Tory MP Natalie Elphicke in his parliamentary office (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

“Her defection comes as a huge shock to many of us and is currently making me feel incredibly uneasy,” she added. “I suppose people’s politics can change and I would welcome Ms Elphicke making some bold statements to correct her previously taken political positions.”

Ms Elphicke won her seat with 56.9 per cent of the vote after standing in Dover in the wake of her now ex-husband being suspended from the Tory Party after he was charged with sexual assault.

A Labour source told The Independent: “Welcoming with open arms someone who has publicly questioned the experiences of victims of sexual assault completely undermines Labour's commitment to ending violence against women and girls. 

“Victims across the country will look at this and see a party that simply doesn't take accusations seriously.”

Announcing her decision to defect, Ms Elphicke said changes that the Tory party has undergone since she became an MP have “been dramatic and cannot be ignored”, with Sir Keir welcoming her to the party.

After her ex-husband’s conviction, she sought to defend him in an interview with The Sun, saying he was “attractive, and attracted to women” and this meant he was “an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations”. Her ex-husband was sentenced to two years in prison.

Ms Elphicke and two Tory MPs were ordered to apologise and temporarily suspended from the House of Commons for a day back in July 2021 after they were found to have attempted to influence a judge overseeing the trial of Charlie Elphicke.

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