Read Tory MP Natalie Elphicke’s defection statement as backlash grows

Tom Belger
Natalie Elphicke.

Tory MP for Dover and Deal Natalie Elphicke has announced she is quitting the Conservative party and joining Labour.

It will be seen by many as a significant coup for Labour leader Keir Starmer, coming less than a fortnight after another Tory MP, Dan Poulter, also crossed the floor. A Tory MP told The Times it was a “massive whips’ failure”.

The decision has sparked criticism on the left though, with The Mirror‘s Kevin Maguire asking if it is a “defection too far”,  and left campaign groups and even some shadow ministers reportedly slamming the decision to admit Elphicke given the  series of controversial stances she has taken on multiple issues from immigration and sexual assault to climate and Marcus Rashford.

Labour’s current Dover and Deal candidate Mike Tapp will remain in place, with Elphicke standing down come the election, LabourList understands.

Tapp said: “Only the Labour Party under Keir Starmer, with Yvette Cooper, will secure the borders. It’s one of the reasons so many former Conservatives are coming to Labour.”

Elphicke issued a statement through Labour officials just before Prime Minister’s Questions to inflict maximum political damage. Shen then sat behind Starmer at PMQs. It reads:

“Today I announce that I have decided to join the Labour Party and that I will sit in Parliament as a Labour MP.

“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.

“Meanwhile 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.

“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.

“From small boats to biosecurity, Rishi Sunak’s government is 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.

“On housing, Rishi Sunak’s Government is now failing to build the homes we need. Last year saw the largest fall of new housing starts in England in a single year since the credit crunch. The manifesto committed to 300,000 homes next year – but only around half that number are now set to be built. Renters and leaseholders have been betrayed as manifesto pledges to end no fault evictions and abolish ground rents have not been delivered as promised.

“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. Britain needs a Government that will build a future of hope, optimism, opportunity and fairness. A Britain everyone can be part of, that will make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. That’s why it’s time for change. Time for a Labour Government led by Keir Starmer. The General Election cannot come soon enough.”

Politics professor Tim Bale posted on X: “Not sure anyone saw THAT coming – though goodness only knows what it means for Labour’s stance on small boats/migrants.”

Tory MP Steve Baker said: “I have been searching in vain for a Conservative MP who thinks themself to the right of Natalie Elphicke.”

One shadow minister told Politico people like Elphicke should not be welcomed into Labour, adding: “She has views that would be welcome in Reform.”

Jenny Symmons, a Labour staffer and chair of the GMB branch for members’ staff, described the defection as “really, really poor and disappointing,” also telling Politico: “Labour has welcomed her in … without seemingly having standards you have to meet to represent the party.” Symmons said she had written to the chief whip requesting a meeting about the vetting of people wishing to become Labour MPs.

A spokesperson for Compass said: “Labour has taken a hard-line approach to policing its own boundaries on the left, but appears to have no qualms about letting former Tories who clearly don’t share its values from joining up. This is a one-sided pluralism that corrodes trust in our politics.”

A spokesperson for Momentum said “this hard-right Tory should have no place in a Labour Party worthy of the name”, adding: “It speaks volumes about Keir Starmer that he is welcoming her with open arms, while leaving Diane Abbott out in the cold.”

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