Blow to Sunak as Natalie Elphicke defects to Labour

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has become the third Tory MP to defect to Labour

David Maddox
Political editor
,Archie Mitchell
Wednesday 08 May 2024 13:46 BST
Starmer welcomes Natalie Elphicke after Labour MP defects from Conservatives

Rishi Sunak has suffered another humiliating blow as Dover MP Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour moments before PMQs.

Ms Elphicke has joined Dr Dan Poulter and Christian Wakeford in crossing the floor.

The move is a shock from an MP who had been part of the rightwing Common Sense Group but whose seat was set to be lost to Labour according to the polls.

The announcement saw Kent’s preniously only Labour MP Rosie Duffileld, who has been repeatedly snubbed by Sir Keir Starmer over her views on trans issues, put out a sarcastic tweet: “At least one woman from Kent got a meeting.”

Sir Keir Starmer, who held talks with Ms Elphicke in the run up to the defection, welcomed his new MP at the start of prime minister’s questions (PMQs) in a rowdy session in the Commons.

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)

Rightwing Tories made it clear they feel betrayed by Natalie Elphicke who was seen as one of their wing of the party.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns, a Boris Johnson supporter, tweeted: “Natalie Elphicke you were a centre right Conservative, Labour want to give asylum to 50,000 plus people. I thought you had more conviction than to join the lefty labour lot you despised so much!”

She attached an article from Ms Elphicke saying Labour “can’t be trusted” on immigration in which she called Starmer “Sir Softie”.

No 10 also hit back. The prime minister’s press secretary said the Dover MP had to “explain why she believes Labour do have a plan given she has spent the last two years attacking their lack of a plan (on small boats)”. And Labour MPs were furious at the decision, with one reportedly having broken into tears at the news of the defection.

But in a statement, Ms Elphicke appeared to suggest that part of her reason to switch to Labour was the ousting of Boris Johnson.

She said: “When I was elected in 2019, the Conservative Party occupied the centre ground of British politics. The party was about building the future and making the most of the opportunities that lay ahead for our country.

“Since then, many things have changed. The elected prime minister was ousted in a coup led by the unelected Rishi Sunak. Under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives have become a byword for incompetence and division. The centre ground has been abandoned and key pledges of the 2019 manifesto have been ditched.”

Ms Elphicke went on: “Meanwhile the Labour Party has changed out of all recognition. Since 2019, it has moved on from Jeremy Corbyn and now, under Keir Starmer, occupies the centre ground of British politics. It has accepted Brexit and its economic policies and defence policies are responsible and can be trusted.

“Most significantly for me, the modern Labour Party looks to the future – to building a Britain of hope, optimism, opportunity and fairness. A Britain everyone can be part of.

“I have carefully considered this decision. The change has been dramatic and cannot be ignored. For me key deciding factors have been housing and the safety and security of our borders.” She has not been offered a seat by Labour, Sir Keir’s official spokesman said, but is able to apply for selection if one comes up. She has denied being offered a peerage by the party.

The Dover MP, who replaced her husband Charlie after he was forced to step down as an MP, listed what she considers to be a number of failures by the governent.

“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.

“On housing, Rishi Sunak’s Government is now failing to build the homes we need. Last year saw the largest fall of new housing starts in England in a single year since the credit crunch. The manifesto committed to 300,000 homes next year – but only around half that number are now set to be built. Renters and leaseholders have been betrayed as manifesto pledges to end no fault evictions and abolish ground rents have not been delivered as promised.

“The last couple of years have also seen a huge rise in homelessness, in temporary accommodation and rough sleeping - with record numbers of children now in temporary accommodation, without a secure roof over their head.

“Meanwhile Labour plan to build the homes we need, help young people onto the housing ladder and care about the vulnerable and homeless. That’s why I’m honoured to have been asked to work with Keir and the team to help deliver the homes we need.”

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