'Monumental disloyalty’: Shocked MPs hit out at Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke's defection to Labour

8 May 2024, 16:41

Natalie Elphicke has defected to the Labour Party
Natalie Elphicke has defected to the Labour Party. Picture: Alamy

By Flaminia Luck

Natalie Elphicke's defection from the Conservative to the Labour Party has prompted a wave of negative reaction from across the political spectrum, with one fellow Tory MP describing it as a "monumental demonstration of disloyalty".

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Ms Elphicke crossed the floor in the Commons just moments before Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday in a shock move.

In a statement, Ms Elphicke said under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives have become a "byword for incompetence and division."

She added that the Labour Party has changed "out of all recognition".

The defection is the latest blow for the Conservatives - who lost Dan Poulter MP to Labour last month over concerns for the NHS - however some have questioned how much Ms Elphicke's values align with those of the party.

The Labour leader has welcomed the Dover and Deal MP
Natalie Elphicke said the Labour Party has changed "out of all recognition". Picture: Alamy

Tech minister Saqib Bhatti told LBC's Tom Swarbrick that the move was "very odd".

"Natalie will have to make her peace with the people she's surrounded herself with," he added.

Rail minister, Huw Merriman said he was "taken aback" by her decision, claiming she doesn't have much in common with her new colleagues.

Fellow Kent MP Sir Roger Gale echoed this sentinment.

"So far as I can see Mrs Elphicke has absolutely nothing in common with either the old or the ‘re-invented’ Labour Party," he said."

"I would like to think that she will not be dishonourable enough to accept a peerage from Mr Starmer and it will be interesting to see if she has the courage to fight her Dover seat as a socialist."

The Thanet MP also said: "Having given Mrs Elphicke considerable personal support at the time when she most needed it I think it is fair to say that her monumental demonstration of disloyalty to her former friends warrants mild disappointment!"

Sir Roger was among one of five Tory MPs found to have breached the code of conduct over an attempt to influence legal proceedings.

The politicians sent a letter to senior judges before a hearing on the release of pre-sentencing character references for Charlie Elphicke.

The Conservatives' Steve Baker said he was also surprised at the move, given that Ms Elphicke was considered to be on the right of the Conservative party.

Watch Again: Mish Rahman joins Tom Swarbrick

Meanwhile Mish Rahman, a left-wing member of Labour's national executive committee, said that the party accepting Ms Elphicke showed the party was becoming a "dustbin for far-right Tory politicians who have inflicted colossal damage on the country".

He told Tom that "it's not in the public interest to sweep up Tories that are rejected up and down the country into your parliamentary party."

Caller shares discomfort with Natalie Elphicke's defection

One caller, who is a Labour Party member, shared his discomfort with the defection with LBC's Shelagh Fogarty.

"I think essentially we just do need to have people who at least agree with us on our values of compassion," he said.

The caller added she may have "reached her own road to Damascus" but doubts her values align with those of the party given her typically hard stance on issues such as immigration and small boats.

Read more: Monty Panesar quits George Galloway's Workers Party - one week after England cricketer is unveiled as candidate

But some were more positive about Ms Elphicke joining Labour.

The leader of the Dover District Council welcomed the move, despite the "scepticism" he shares with a number in the party over her past views.

Councillor Kevin Mills, council leader and Labour member for Buckland, said news of the Conservative MP for Dover's defection came as a surprise.

"It's not something I would have expected to hear", he told the PA news agency, adding: "Do I think she'll be the last? Probably not.

"She believes this country has been let down by the Government and has been quite clear that the only government she can see taking us forward - providing fairness, opportunity, housing - is a Labour government under Keir Starmer."

Oliver Richardson, a Conservative member of the council, branded Ms Elphicke "a turncoat".

A Labour spokesperson "very happy" to welcome Natalie Elphicke despite some of her previous comments, which a party spokesman said have been "dealt with previously".

It was put to him that she had sought to influence a judge in the case of her ex-husband.

The spokesman told reporters: "All of those issues have been dealt with previously, both in Parliament and in public."

On her comment that Mr Elphicke had been punished for being attracted to women, he said: "Natalie can speak to her own remarks on that and she has spoken extensively about that case, and I don't have anything to add to what she has said on that subject."

The spokesman said he is confident Ms Elphicke shares Labour's values and that there are no skeletons in the closet.

Pressed on whether all Labour MPs are happy about her joining, he said: "It's a sign of the progress that we've made that people recognise that on some of the key challenges facing the country, the Tories have failed.

"And here is someone who is willing to make the significant step of switching across to Keir Starmer's changed Labour Party, and that's something we're very happy to see."

Sir Keir said: "I'm delighted to welcome Natalie Elphicke to the Labour Party.

"She's got a strong track record on issues such as housing, she's on the frontline when it comes to the crisis of small boats."

He added: "And I say to every Tory voter who feels that they want to be part of a national mission to change our country for the better that the project we've built here in this changed Labour Party is a project that I hope they would feel they could get behind."