Jess Phillips calls for independent investigation into Natalie Elphicke lobbying claims

12 May 2024, 12:51 | Updated: 12 May 2024, 13:51

"There is an opportunity to have a conversation that I would like the country"

By Emma Soteriou

Jess Philips has called for an independent investigation into Natalie Elphicke lobbying claims.

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Ms Elphicke, who is now a Labour MP after defecting from the Tories earlier in the week, has been accused of trying to lobby Robert Buckland, then Lord Chancellor, over the trial of then-husband Charlie Elphicke.

She allegedly spoke to Mr Buckland in 2020 before the hearing of her husband's criminal sex offences trial. Ms Elphicke has dismissed the claims as "nonsense".

Shadow Paymaster General Jonathan Ashworth insisted that he had no reason to disbelieve Ms Elphicke and said he did not believe she should be investigated.

However, his fellow Labour MP, Jess Phillips, disagreed, saying "there should always be an independent investigation into all these sorts of claims that come forward".

Speaking to LBC's Lewis Goodall, Ms Phillips said: "I think that when it's my own side, I think it should happen in the Conservative Party, Robert Buckland needs to come forward with some more evidence for his sudden moral code.

"I like Robert Buckland, I actually think he's been pretty good on these issues over the years, but frankly the Conservative party now claiming they are suddenly the bastions of this particular area of work - tomorrow, they wish for us to vote for Members of Parliament who have been accused and arrested for sexual crimes to be able to stay on the state - so frankly the idea I'd be looking to them for allyship in the fight against women and girls..."

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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, with new Labour MP Natalie Elphicke, during a visit to Dover, Kent, to set out his party's plans to tackle the small boats c
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, with new Labour MP Natalie Elphicke, during a visit to Dover, Kent, to set out his party's plans to tackle the small boats c. Picture: Alamy

It came after she said that, based on what she knew of Ms Elphicke, she "probably would have said 'no'" to her joining Labour.

She said: "I think I probably would have had the conversation I've just had with you with her and trying to sort it out before the problem blows up, I have to say, I've never spoken to Natalie Elphicke - in politics I have to work with I don't agree with 100% of the time on loads of different things to get laws across the line that I really deeply care about.

"I don't know Natalie Elphicke, on the face of it - what I do know about her - it seems likely I probably would have said 'no'."

Read more: 'Traitors never sleep well': Deputy foreign sec hits out at Natalie Elphicke as Labour backs her over 'lobbying' claims

Read more: Natalie Elphicke 'lobbied Justice Secretary over sex offender ex-husband's trial'

Addressing the allegations, Ms Phillips went on to say: "What I find absolutely galling about the whole thing in light of the stuff that has come out this morning, and I've found this my entire career, is people tend to only care when it's the other side that do it - and you have to try and care regardless. 

"And Robert Buckland coming out now with these claims which I have absolutely no idea of the veracity of, does somewhat suggest he cared considerably less about the rule of law (and) victims of sexual violence when it wasn't politically expedient for him.

"I think questions have to be answered now, I don't know how one would prove if two people are saying two different things, it's not my wheelhouse, it's not my paygrade, there are questions to be answered, there are apologies to be made and there is work to do and I maintain that position."