Elphicke defection: 76% of our readers say Labour wrong to accept Tory MP

Katie Neame
Photo: @Keir_Starmer

Labour’s decision to welcome former Tory MP Natalie Elphicke into its parliamentary ranks has drawn considerable criticism from within the party – with multiple national executive committee members calling for the party whip to be suspended from her.

LabourList asked readers of our daily briefing email this morning whether they think the party is “right” to accept Elphicke’s defection from the Tories.

More than 700 readers had responded by 3:30pm this afternoon, with more than three-quarters (76.4%) saying the party was not right to admit the former Tory MP. Just over a fifth of respondents (20.3%) said the party was right to accept her, while 3.3% said they did not know. You can still vote here.

As the leading dedicated Labour news site with readers across the party, LabourList hopes the poll may give some clues about member sentiment on the move – but it should still be handled with some caution.

LabourList is not suggesting this is a scientific poll that provides an exact representation of the views of all party members at large. While many members read our daily email, anyone can subscribe to it, and anyone can fill in the poll, member or not.

We also asked readers which Tory MP they would most want to join Labour if any, to which more than 400 responded “none”. The Tory MP named in the most responses was Alicia Kearns on 13, followed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on nine.

Elphicke, the MP for Dover, announced she was quitting the Conservative Party and joining Labour in a statement issued through Labour officials just before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

The former Tory MP argued that the Conservatives have become a “byword for incompetence and division” under Sunak’s leadership, particularly highlighting the party’s record on housing and border security.

“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,” she said.

The Labour leader said on Wednesday he was “delighted” to welcome Elphicke to Labour, telling Sky News: “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.

“And the reason that she’s given for joining the Labour Party is very, very important because I think she speaks for very many Tory voters in saying that the Tory Party has changed, it’s left the centre ground.

“But equally, the Labour Party has changed, and we are very clearly the party of the national interest, of country first, party second. And I look forward to working with her on the mission to deliver the real change that this country desperately needs.”

NEC members Jess Barnard and Mish Rahman – who are both standing for reelection to the party’s governing body with the backing of the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance and Momentum – have called for the Labour whip to be suspended from Elphicke.

Barnard argued that accepting the former Tory MP was a “colossal error of judgement” from Starmer which “undermines the fight against sexual harassment and is totally inconsistent with Labour values”.

Elphicke has faced scrutiny in part over comments she made supporting her ex-husband, the former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, after he was convicted of sexual assault. She released a statement today apologising for the comments.

“I have previously, and do, condemn his behaviour towards other women and towards me. It was right that he was prosecuted and I’m sorry for the comments that I made about his victims,” she said.

Others within Labour and on the left have also questioned the decision to accept Elphicke, with The Mirror’s Kevin Maguire asking if it is a “defection too far” and Labour staffer and chair of the GMB branch for members’ staff Jenny Symmons describing the defection as “really, really poor and disappointing”.

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