Rosie Duffield urges Labour MPs to ‘speak up’ about Natalie Elphicke defection

The right-wing former Tory said on Tuesday Sir Keir Starmer had ‘no plan’ and would ‘take Britain back to square one’

Archie Mitchell
Thursday 09 May 2024 11:28 BST
Keir Starmer refuses to comment on Natalie Elphicke's remarks about husband's victims

Rosie Duffield has urged fellow Labour MPs to speak up about the defection of Natalie Elphicke, amid criticism of Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to accept the controversial former Tory.

The outspoken Canterbury MP said “yet again” she was the only Labour MP willing to put her name to quotes about the decision, despite “so many of us feeling exactly the same”.

“It would be great if colleagues also spoke up,” she said. Ms Duffield said on Wednesday that Labour MPs were "baffled" by her "really peculiar" move to swap sides.

Many have complained about the move behind the scenes, with a shadow cabinet member telling The Independent it is a disgrace.

Rosie Duffield has urged Labour colleagues to speak up about the defection of Tory MP Natalie Elphicke
Rosie Duffield has urged Labour colleagues to speak up about the defection of Tory MP Natalie Elphicke (PA Archive)

Ms Elphicke’s defection raised questions about Sir Keir’s commitment to tackling violence against women and girls, which he has made a central part of his pitch as Labour leader.

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

Ms Elphicke was also 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.”

Labour Party chairman Anneliese Dodds said Ms Elphicke has already been made accountable for past comments defending her ex husband after he was convicted for sexual assault. She appeared to be referring to Ms Elphicke’s suspension from parliament, while Ms Elphicke has not been sanctioned for the comments she made about the case.

It also emerged on Thursday that Ms Elphicke sent out a leaflet attacking the Labour Party just a day before defecting to become a Labour MP.

The right-wing former Tory, who crossed the floor on Wednesday, said on Tuesday Sir Keir Starmer had “no plan” and would “take Britain back to square one”.

In a message paid for by the Conservative Party, Ms Elphicke criticised Labour’s stance on the economy, taxes, immigration, net zero and apprenticeships.

Sir Keir Starmer welcomed Natalie Elphicke to the Labour Party (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Sir Keir Starmer welcomed Natalie Elphicke to the Labour Party (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The leaflet, seen by The Times, said Labour supports uncontrolled immigration while the Conservatives were taking action to stop the boats.

But, in a statement issued as she defected, Ms Elphicke said: “From small boats to biosecurity, Rishi Sunak’s government is failing to keep our borders safe and secure.

“Lives are being lost in the English Channel while small boat arrivals are once again at record levels. It’s clear they have failed to keep our borders secure and cannot be trusted.”

She added: “We need to move on from the broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic Government.”

Her defection shocked Westminster, with only a handful of figures at the top of the Labour Party aware of the plans ahead of the move. She was seen as a right-winger even on the Tory benches, and Labour MPs questioned Sir Keir’s decision to welcome her to the party.

Sir Keir has welcomed two new Labour MPs this week
Sir Keir has welcomed two new Labour MPs this week (PA Wire)

Ms Dodds said the former Tory MP, seen by many as on the right of the party, is a good fit for Labour and said that "people can change their minds''.

Quizzed about Ms Elphicke’s comments about her ex-husband’s trial, 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."

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said Ms Elphicke was a "very odd fit" for the Labour Party considering her views on immigration

She told LBC: “Her principles and her policies, and her positions, have changed as often as Keir Starmer’s.

"I don’t really know her, she’s much more on the right of the party. I think somebody said they couldn’t find anyone more right-wing than Natalie Elphicke.

"So, I don’t really know her very well but clearly she has had a massive 180 degree change in some of her views miraculously, I guess overnight, and I’m not 100% sure how you can change your views and principles that quickly."

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