Natalie Elphicke: Keir Starmer faces Labor fury after Tory MP quits

  • By Paul Seddon & Chris Mason
  • BBC News

image source, Good pictures

Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to add Tory MP Natalie Elphick to Labor has left some of his MPs stunned.

A Dover MP’s sudden departure from the Conservative Party has prompted reactions from his new colleagues ranging from joy to anger.

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield said she was “confused” by the “really strange” move by Labor MPs to switch sides.

But a senior party figure hailed his switch as “one hell of a coup”.

And Sir Gair told reporters he was “delighted” to leave his party, while telling reporters his party was “a party of the national interest”.

Several sources said Labor whips responsible for party discipline were concerned about accepting him, but Labor denied this.

It is Rishi Sunak’s second exit from Labor in less than two weeks, after Dr Dan Poulter also left the Tories last month.

Usually, when an MP switches parties, all their new colleagues are happy.

However, this latest defection, announced moments before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, has upset, disappointed and shocked some Labor MPs.

In a blistering statement, Ms Elphicke said the Tories were “a byword for incompetence and division”.

Many others are saying privately what Ms Duffield wants to say publicly to leave the party.

Although Ms Elphike has made arguments in areas such as housing that align with her new colleagues, she has previously attacked Labor policy in several areas.

As well as her political stance, many Labor MPs are extremely uncomfortable with comments she made about her then husband Charlie Elphick, who was made MP for Dover in 2019.

video title, WATCH: Natalie Elphicke sits on the Labor benches

He has not commented on those earlier comments since stepping down on Wednesday.

“All those issues have been dealt with before in Parliament and in the public sphere,” Labor said.

Speaking to BBC Radio Sheffield on Wednesday, Labor MP Sarah Champion said “some of the things that Ms Elphicke said to defend her ex-husband from allegations of sexual abuse” “didn’t sit well with me”.

He also said it was “challenging” to recruit former Tory MPs to the party “so close to a general election”.

“I think their principles and their belief systems are far from mine, but we are where we are,” he added.

Ms Elphicke, like Dan Poulter, plans to leave parliament at the election because Labor already has candidates in both seats, creating “a mess”.

Conservative MPs have expressed surprise at Ms Elphick’s departure, with Transport Minister Huw Merriman branding her “shameless” and “opportunistic”.

“I’m disappointed for politics that she did what she did,” he added.


Speaking to BBC South East, fellow Kent MP Ms Duffield said Labour’s backbenchers were “really confused” by the departure.

“I think it’s a very strange result and most Labor backbenchers and probably a lot of Tories are really quite confused,” he added.

He added that he “didn’t believe for a second that he suddenly became a Labor MP”.

Fellow Labor backbencher Mick Whitley called her move “outrageous” and said Ms Elphike did not share the “values ​​of the Labor movement”.

Mish Rahman, a member of Labour’s ruling national executive, said he did not welcome Ms Elphick’s departure and said the party was “getting worse”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, Mr Rahman said Ms Elphicke had “never occupied the centre-stage during her time as an MP”.

He described the Conservative Party as a “sinking ship” and said Ms Elphicke was “swimming at sea” trying to “escape”.

Labor should be in the business of changing the country, he said, “not saving the lives of Tory politicians who reject the British public because of the damage they have done to the country”.

“He is not fit to be a member of the Labor Party, let alone an MP,” he added.

John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, said he was “surprised and shocked” by her move.

“I’m a great believer in the powers of conversion, but I think even this would have reduced the generosity of John the Baptist quite frankly,” he told LBC.

Sir Keir, however, will be hoping to focus on the bigger picture – and argues that Tory defections could personify his wider plan to persuade former Conservative voters to switch to Labour.

“That’s what matters,” says a senior Labor figure.

“Finally we’ve got a Conservative MP appointed to a good cause for Dover. Small ferry crossings in the middle of the row. It’s a conspiracy.”

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