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Natalie Elphicke: Tory MP defects from Labor over her attack on Rishi Sunak

Natalie Elphicke: Tory MP defects from Labor over her attack on Rishi Sunak
  • Written by Becky Morton
  • Political reporter

Video explanation, Dissident MP Natalie Elphicke: Sunak’s Conservatives have broken many election promises

Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour, saying the Conservative Party had “become synonymous with incompetence and division”.

In a statement issued as the PMQs began, the MP for Dover said the key factors in her decision were housing and border security.

Rishi Sunak was accused of making “false promises” and abandoning key pledges.

The BBC has learned that Labor will retain its current candidate in Dover and Deal at the next general election and Ms Elphick will stand down.

This constituency replaces Dover, where Mrs Elphick received a majority of 12,278 votes at the last election, after boundary changes.

In dramatic scenes, Prime Minister’s Questions began in the House of Commons as Ms Elphick crossed the floor to sit behind Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer.

There was astonishment and confusion among many on the Conservative benches.

The news was only announced at midday, and many Tory MPs did not realize that their former colleague was now sitting opposite them – directly behind Sir Keir, and so in the camera shot as he spoke – rather than next to them.

Sir Keir welcomed her to the ceremony, and asked Mr Sunak “what good is this failed government reeling in” when “the Tory MP for Dover on the front line of the small boat crisis said the Prime Minister cannot be trusted on our borders and is joining us”. exhaustion”.

Dover is the arrival point for many people who cross the Channel in small boats.

Ms Elphicke said in her statement that Mr Sunak’s government was “failing to keep our borders safe and secure”, with lives lost in the Channel and small boats reaching “record levels”.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “The people of Dover and Deal will be disappointed to feel the impact of illegal immigration.

He added: “They had a representative who sat with the party fighting to address this issue directly, and now they have a representative in the party who has worked to block our plans to tackle illegal immigration 139 times.”

Video explanation, Starmer questions the Prime Minister about the defection of two Conservative MPs to the Labor Party

Last April Mrs. Elphick He wrote in an article for the Express newspaper Labor “has no plan of its own to tackle illegal migration” and described the government’s plan in Rwanda as “world-leading”.

The Labor Party has pledged to cancel the plan to send some asylum seekers to the East African country if it wins power.

Asked whether she had changed her mind about Labour’s immigration policies, Ms Elphick said Mr Sunak had not stopped small boat crossings and Labor would address the issue.

The MP said she was not offered a peerage to defect but was asked to contribute to housing.

Sir Keir said Ms Elphick had a “strong track record on issues such as housing” and was “on the front line when it comes to the small boat crisis”.

Transport Minister Huw Merriman said he was “very surprised” by the defection and accused Ms Elphicke of being “opportunistic”.

He told the BBC: “She recently wrote an article… saying: Don’t trust Labor on immigration, they really want open borders, and now she’s sitting with them.”

Video explanation, Sir Keir Starmer wonders when Rishi Sunak will get ‘the hint’ on Tory losses

Ms Elphicke, who backed Liz Truss in the 2022 Conservative leadership contest, was on the right of the Conservative Party and a member of the European Brexit-backing research group.

Sir Keir’s decision to welcome her to the Labor Party has been criticized by some on the left of his party, especially since Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn remain suspended from the parliamentary Labor Party.

The left-wing group Momentum said: “This hard-right Conservative should have no place in a Labor Party worthy of the name.”

“He speaks volumes about Keir Starmer because he welcomes her with open arms, while leaving Diane Abbott out in the cold.”

On housing, Ms Elphick said the Government had “failed to build the homes we need” and had “betrayed” renters and tenants by failing to deliver on its promises to end no-fault evictions and scrap ground rents.

“When I was elected in 2019, the Conservative Party occupied the center ground of British politics,” she said.

“Since then, many things have changed,” he added. Prime Minister-elect [Boris Johnson] He was ousted in a coup led by the unelected Rishi Sunak.

“Under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives have become synonymous with incompetence and division. Central ground has been abandoned and key pledges in the 2019 manifesto have been abandoned.”

By contrast, she said Labor had “changed dramatically” since 2019 and now “occupies the center ground of British politics”.

She added that the party has a “plan to build the homes we need” and that its economic and defense policies are “responsible and can be trusted.”

Ms Elphick was elected in 2019, taking over the seat of Dover held by her then-husband Charlie Elphick.

It comes after former minister Poulter also defected to Labour, due to the Conservatives’ record on the NHS.

This is the fourth defection of conservatives since 2019.

Lee Anderson, who sat briefly as an independent, joined Reform earlier this year, while Christian Wakeford left the Conservatives and joined Labor in 2022.

Analysis of PMQs

By Lucy Gelder, BBC Verifies

“since it’s [Rishi Sunak] “Following the declaration of victory 16 days ago, there have been a staggering 2,400 small boat crossings,” Sir Keir Starmer announced during Prime Minister’s Questions.

On 22 April 2024, Rishi Sunak held a press conference after the Rwanda Safety Bill passed through the House of Commons.

Since then, 2,409 people have been discovered crossing the canal in small boats as of May 6. So Sir Keir is right.

The number of small boat crossings during this period increased by 76% compared to the same period last year, when 1,366 people crossed between April 22 and May 6, 2023.

So far this year, 8,674 people have crossed the canal.

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