Labour talking to more Tory MPs about defecting, Streeting claims

Labour frontbencher Wes Streeting said he has spoken to more Tories considering a defection to the British opposition but insisted the party would not accept just any MP after former Conservative Natalie Elphicke crossed the floor.

The shadow health secretary said Ms Elphicke had switched sides “with a purpose” and “not out of personal ambition” as he defended the move amid a backlash from some of her new party colleagues.

Referring to her defection along with former Tory Dan Poulter last month in an interview with the Independent, Mr Streeting said: “I think in Dan’s case as a doctor in the NHS who has come to the unequivocal conclusion only Labour can be trusted to sort the NHS out, Natalie Elphicke who is with her community seeing the consequences of what happens when immigration goes poorly managed…

“I think they’re very powerful message-carriers but they have defected with a purpose, not out of personal ambition, and I think people should take that message really seriously.”

Mr Streeting claimed he has spoken to more Tory MPs considering a move because of the “division and incompetence” of Rishi Sunak’s government.

Labour MPs have criticised the decision to admit Ms Elphicke to the party, citing her hardline views on immigration and her previous support of her ex-husband after he was found guilty of sexual assaulting two women.

The Dover MP apologised on Thursday for claiming after Charlie Elphicke’s 2020 conviction that he was “attractive, and attracted to women” and “an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations”.

She said: “The period of 2017 – 2020 was an incredibly stressful and difficult one for me as I learned more about the person I thought I knew. I know it was far harder for the women who had to relive their experiences and give evidence against him.”

Jess Phillips, the former shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, had earlier said Ms Elphicke should “account for her actions”, adding: “I’m all for forgiveness but I do think that that needs some explaining.”

One Labour MP told the PA news agency they thought the decision was “utterly disgraceful”, while another was left in tears by the news.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported that deputy leader Angela Rayner had told backbenchers at an internal parliamentary committee meeting that Ms Elphicke would have no “formal role” in the party following the backlash.

A source told the paper that the “key point was that (Ms Rayner) clarified Natalie will have no formal role beyond being just a backbencher”.

The decision was also another blow to the UK prime minister, coming shortly after Dr Poulter’s defection and a set of local election results last week which painted a dismal picture for the Conservatives.

Announcing her decision to switch parties, Ms Elphicke hit out at Mr Sunak’s “tired and chaotic government” and accused him of failing to deliver on his promise to “stop the boats”, adding that Labour would “bring a much better future for our country”.

But Downing Street has pointed out her repeated attacks on Labour’s immigration policy while former prime minister David Cameron said her defection showed the opposition stood for nothing.

Answering questions after a speech in London, the UK foreign secretary said: “What does this tell us about the party she’s joining? In life, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

“I thought that’s sort of what yesterday showed, that there isn’t a policy about anything, it’s just been about clearing the decks to try and focus attention on the governing party.”


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