Tory MP Natalie Elphicke defects to Labour and slams 'broken promises' of Sunak's 'tired government'

8 May 2024, 12:04 | Updated: 8 May 2024, 15:47

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

By Flaminia Luck

Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, has defected to the Labour Party, hitting out at the "broken promises of Rishi Sunak's tired and chaotic government".

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

She said: "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."

Her defection to Labour leaves the Government with a working majority in the Commons of 45.

It is the latest blow for the Conservatives - who lost Dan Poulter MP to Labour last month over concerns for the NHS.

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

Following her announcement, Sir Keir Starmer "warmly welcomed" the Dover MP to the benches.

He added: "If one week a Tory MP who is also a doctor says the Prime Minister can't be trusted with the NHS and joins Labour, and the next week the Tory MP for Dover on the front line of the small boats crisis says the Prime Minister cannot be trusted with our borders, and joins Labour.

"What is the point of this failed Government staggering on?"


'Incompetence and division'

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

She said that 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."

Ms Elphicke stated the general election "cannot come soon enough".

She also slammed Sunak's government for "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."

Read more: Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke defects to Labour and hits out at 'failing' government - read her statement in full

She also criticised the government's record on housing, including failing to build new homes and bring in the manifesto pledge to end no fault evictions and abolish ground rents.

She added: "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. We need to move on from the broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic Government," she said.

Charlie Elphicke arriving at court with hisf former wife, Natalie Elphicke, who took over as MP for Dover after he stood down
Charlie Elphicke arriving at court with his former wife, Natalie Elphicke, who took over as MP for Dover after he stood down. Picture: Alamy

Ms Elphicke was elected as MP for Dover in 2019, taking over the seat which had been held by her disgraced former husband Charlie.

He was jailed for two years after being found guilty in 2020 of sexually assaulting two women.

The pair - who have two children together - spilt in 2021.

Read more: John Swinney officially sworn in as Scotland's First Minister with cabinet announcement expected today

Ms Elphicke will not stand at the next election, Labour confirmed, saying it will retain its existing candidate in her current seat.

A party spokesperson said: "We've already selected a Labour candidate in Dover and Deal - Mike Tapp."

Caller shares discomfort with Natalie Elphicke's defection

The news of Elphicke's move across the floor has triggered a mixed reaction.

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

Labour MP for Canterbury Rosie Duffield tweeted: "Am no longer the only UK Labour MP in Kent" then later shared a tweet with an image of Keir Starmer and Natalie Elphicke with the caption: "Well, at least one woman from Kent got a meeting!"

Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet, 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!

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

"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."

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.