Starmer may have shot himself in the foot welcoming the Tories’ ‘most rightwing MP’ into Labour

What attracted Sir Keir Starmer to a Brexiteer MP who hates migrants and trade unions?

David Maddox
Political editor
Wednesday 08 May 2024 16:31 BST
Starmer welcomes Natalie Elphicke after Labour MP defects from Conservatives

Normally when an MP defects from one political party to another the former colleagues are depressed and the new colleagues are jubilant.

But Natlaie Elphicke’s decision to cross the floor in the Commons to the Labour Party has left Tory MPs literally in fits of laughter while her new comrades on the Oppositon benches were displaying various degrees of moroseness.

The issue with Ms Elphicke is quite simple and was summed up in a social media post by Conservative minister Steve Baker: “I have been searching in vain for a Conservative MP who thinks themself to the right of Natalie Elphicke. One just quipped, ‘I didn’t realise there was any room to her right.’”

Another from the left of the Tories joked: “This is a politician who makes Suella Braverman look like a woke, crypto Marxist, wet liberal.”

Natalie Elphicke is now a Labour MP (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Natalie Elphicke is now a Labour MP (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Archive)

That may be a stretch but readers get the picture.

This is an MP who not so long ago was railing against Labour’s plans for “open borders” dand describing Starmer as “Sir softy”.

There was the infamous occasion that she blamed trade unions for P&O sacking hundreds of it staff in Dover.

Back in 2022 she was warning against “a Lab/ Lib/ SNP coalition of chaos”.

Obsessed with immigration, she claimed her new party was “intennt on creating legal loopholes for illegal immigration.”

One of her former rightwing colleagues Brendan Clarke-Smith has been joyfully retweeting her all day with the message: “I agree with Natlie”.

Nobody knows why such a rightwing MP wanted to join Labour and what she may or may not have been offered. It is understood that the seat her former party gifted her after her disgraced former husband Charlie (the ex-MP for Dover) went to prison will not be available for her as a Labour candidate.

Edmonton MP Kate Osamor has had the Labour whip reinstated (Richard Townshend/UK Parliament/PA)
Edmonton MP Kate Osamor has had the Labour whip reinstated (Richard Townshend/UK Parliament/PA) (PA Media)

In an even more bizarre twist, Ms Elphicke seemed to suggest in her statement that she had defected because she was upset Boris Johnson was ditched as prime minister and the Tory 2019 manifesto had been abandoned.

While humourous on one level today’s episode is potentially as damaging for Sir Keir as it is for Mr Sunak. After all the Tories are getting used to their colleagues defecting - Lee Anderson, Andrew Bridgen, Dan Poulter and Christian Wakeford - or having to resign and cause a by-election over some allegation.

But Starmer is potentially leaving himself open to the accusation of not only being a party leader with no policies but also no principles.

It was noticeable that he did not consult his shadow cabinet before accepting Ms Elphicke into the party. There were plenty of sick emojis and similar reactions to her arrival in Labour from party members and activists.

What does it say about Starmer that he would allow somebody with such strong views on the right into his party?

Then just as an extra flourish he allowed Kate Osamor, the MP suspended over a controversial Holocaust tweet, back into the party.

The local elections showed that the Tories are in full collapse, but they also confirmed Labour has not sealed the deal yet. There are many on the left suspicious of this leadership’s approach. Ms Elphicke’s arrival will not have made them feel any more certain about Labour.

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