MP Natalie Elphicke becomes second Tory to defect to Labour in two weeks

'We need to move on from the broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic Government,' said the MP in a statement.

MP Natalie Elphicke becomes second Tory to defect to Labour in two weeks Getty Images

Words by Elisa Menendez, Westminster Producer

Tory MP Natalie Elphicke has defected to Labour, saying Rishi Sunak’s “Conservatives have become a byword for incompetence and division”.

The Dover MP crossed the floor in the Commons just moments before Prime Minister’s Questions prompting shock and fury among Tory MPs sat in the Chamber.

Ms Elphicke is the second Conservative to defect to the opposition in just two weeks, after MP Dr Dan Poulter joined Sir Keir Starmer’s party over concerns with the government’s handling of the NHS.

A statement was released shortly before PMQS in which the MP – who has stood on the right of the Tory Party – hit out at the “broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic government”.

In a fresh blow to the PM and his Cabinet – who have been celebrating their Rwanda policy becoming law – Ms Elphicke cited migration and UK border security among her “key” reasons for quitting the party.

“From small boats to biosecurity, Rishi Sunak’s government is failing to keep our borders safe and secure,” she said in a statement. “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.”

Natalie Elphicke sidestepped questions about her previous criticism of the party’s stance on migration, saying she now believes it’s ‘the party that will tackle the issue of the small boat crossings’

Sir Keir welcomed Ms Elphicke to Labour, asking the PM “what is the point of this failed government staggering on” when “the Tory MP for Dover on the front line of small boats crisis says the prime minister cannot be trusted with our borders and joins Labour?”

Downing Street was quick to point out Ms Elphicke’s attacks “for years” on Labour immigration policies on her X social media profile.

Just a year ago, she wrote an article for the Daily Express accusing Labour of wanting “open borders”, having no plan and calling Sir Keir a “softie”.

The MP said in a statement she has “carefully considered” her decision and that the change in the Tory Party “has been dramatic and cannot be ignored” – later insisting Labour “will tackle the issue of the small boat crossings”.

She was elected as Dover’s Conservative MP in 2019, taking over the seat which had been held by her disgraced then-husband and former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, who was jailed for two years after being found guilty in 2020 of sexually assaulting two women.

He served as Dover MP from 2010 for nine years until he was succeeded by his ex-wife.

Following his conviction – and after she’d been made an MP – Ms Elphicke defended him in an article in The Sun, saying he was an “easy target for dirty politics and false allegations” because he is “attractive, and attracted to, women”. She claimed he’d been the victim of a “terrible miscarriage of justice”.

In 2021, she was one of several MPs to receive a one-day ban from the Commons by the standards committee after it found they had attempted to influence the judge presiding over his trial in 2021.

“All of those issues have been dealt with previously, both in Parliament and in public,” said a Labour spokesperson, adding she has “spoken extensively about the case”.

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

Labour confirmed Ms Elphicke still plans to stand down at the next election and the party will stick to its pledge to put Mike Tapp forward as its candidate in her Dover and Deal seat.

Asked whether she could stand in another seat, a Labour spokesman said: “Obviously, as a Labour Party member, it is open to her to apply for any selection that comes up.”

At the last general election, in 2019, Ms Elphicke won a majority of 12,278.

She denied to broadcasters that she’d been offered a peerage by Labour, saying she’s “been asked to contribute in the areas of housing”.

Before she became an MP, Ms Elphicke was chief executive of the Housing and Finance Institute, and had advised local and central government for several years. In 2015 she was awarded an OBE for her services to the sector.

Ms Elphicke said in her statement on Wednesday: “When I was elected in 2019, the Conservative Party occupied the centre ground of British politics. The party was about building the future and making the most of the opportunities that lay ahead for our country.

“Since then, many things have changed. The elected Prime Minister was ousted in a coup led by the unelected Rishi Sunak. Under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives have become a byword for incompetence and division.

“The centre ground has been abandoned and key pledges of the 2019 manifesto have been ditched.”

Labour, meanwhile, “has changed out of all recognition”, she said, adding: “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.”

“For me key deciding factors have been housing and the safety and security of our borders,” she added.

Asked when Mr Sunak found out about her defection, his press secretary told reporters: “I wouldn’t get into conversations between the PM and his colleagues.

“What I can say though is I’m sure it will come as a surprise to her constituents, given that they are on the front line of the illegal immigration issue and she has spent years tweeting about how Labour have absolutely no plan to deal with this.”

Ms Elphicke’s feed on X is “somewhat of a treasure trove on Labour’s weakness on this area,” she said.

Her defection has prompted anger from dozens of Tory MPs, with a Conservative member of Dover District Council has described the MP for Dover’s defection to Labour as a “kick in the guts”.

Former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns shared on X: “@NatalieElphicke you were a centre right Conservative, Labour want to give asylum to 50,000 plus people.

“I thought you had more conviction than to join the lefty labour lot you despised so much!”

Her post contains a screenshot of a headline saying: “Don’t trust Labour on immigration they really want open borders, warns Natalie Elphicke.”

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn highlighted a social media post from Ms Elphicke urging Tory members to vote for Liz Truss during the 2022 leadership campaign.

“Meet Natalie, the new Labour MP,” he said. “What does this say to their values?”

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