Tory Natalie Elphicke’s defection sparks backlash from Labour women

Female Labour MPs said they were uncomfortable with Dover MP's switch after controversy over sex offenses trial of her ex-husband.

May 9, 2024 - 00:36
Tory Natalie Elphicke’s defection sparks backlash from Labour women

LONDON — The defection of a Conservative MP to Labour provoked an outcry from women in her new party, angry at her previous defense of her sex offender ex-husband.

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal since 2019, dramatically announced her defection to Labour on Wednesday just as Rishi Sunak was taking to his feet for prime minister’s questions.

However, Elphicke’s admission to the Labour Party has caused consternation among some of her new colleagues. Seven female Labour MPs, granted anonymity to speak frankly about sentiment inside the party, told POLITICO they were uncomfortable with her switch.

Elphicke took over the seat from her former husband, Charlie, a Conservative MP who was convicted in 2020 of three counts of sexual assault and sent to prison.

In an op-ed after his conviction, Natalie Elphicke wrote that he had been punished for being “charming, wealthy, charismatic and successful — attractive, and attracted to, women. All things that in today’s climate made him an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations.”

She was also briefly suspended from the House of Commons in 2021 for improperly trying to influence a judge not to disclose character statements written for Elphicke in his trial. Natalie Elphicke apologized and said she had been wrong to question the process.


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Elphicke announced her defection to Labour Wednesday, saying: “Under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives have become a byword for incompetence and division.”

But a shadow minister said there was “a lot of unease” because “Natalie has said some abhorrent things and I’m not sure her values are those we should be aspiring to have in the party.”

Another Labour MP said the news left her in tears, because “I thought we had some values that were sacrosanct but we don’t.”

Jenny Symmons, a Labour staffer and chair of the GMB Branch for Members’ Staff, described the party’s embrace of Elphicke as “really, really poor and disappointing,” adding that Labour was not enforcing “standards you have to meet to represent the party.” 

Symmons has written to Labour’s chief whip requesting a meeting about the vetting of people wishing to become Labour MPs.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s spokesman told journalists earlier in relation to Elphicke and her husband: “She’s talked about that case extensively and we have nothing further to add.” Elphicke had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication. 

The move has also raised eyebrows because of Elphicke’s staunchly right-wing views. The left-wing campaign group Momentum posted on X: “This hard-right Tory should have no place in a Labour Party worthy of the name.”

Starmer met Labour’s newest MP in his office after PMQs and posed for pictures with her. He said the Dover MP’s defection “speaks for very many Tory voters” who think the Conservatives have vacated the center ground.

Her defection from Labour to the Tories is the second in as many weeks, after former minister Dan Poulter also crossed the floor. Both Poulter and Elphicke have confirmed they intend to stand down at the next election, clearing the way for existing Labour candidates in their seats.

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