Marking a continuation of notable Tory defections to Labour, Natalie Elphicke, a staunch right-wing Conservative MP, has defected to Labour this week, highlighting shifts in party ideologies and stirring questions about Labour’s embrace of centre-right values under Keir Starmer’s leadership.

O n Wednesday in the House of Commons, just as Prime Minister’s Questions was about to begin, the Conservative MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, crossed the floor of the chamber and sat on the opposition benches, becoming the latest Tory MP to rebel against Rishi Sunak and his hapless leadership of the cruel and chaotic Conservative Party, in this instance by defecting to the Labour Party, and taking a seat immediately behind a smugly grinning Keir Starmer.

Elphicke is now the third Conservative MP to defect to the Labour Party of Keir Starmer, joining Bury South MP Christian Wakeford, who defected in January 2022 following Boris Johnson’s partygate scandal, and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter, who defected to Labour two weeks ago claiming that the NHS is not safe in Conservative hands. Poulter was elected as a Conservative MP in 2010, meaning it took him 14 years to notice that the Tories are a mortal threat to the NHS and public services. No one has ever accused Dan of being quick on the uptake. How long it will take Dan to recognise that his new hero Keir Starmer is a lying and duplicitous charlatan is anyone’s guess. Dan will probably be comfortably ensconced in the House of Lords by then.

Natalie Elphicke, the latest addition to Starmer’s flock, is a right-winger even by the warped standards of the post-Brexit Tory party, which has long since abandoned common decency, humanity, and even sense itself in its mindless pursuit of increasingly right-wing English nationalist populism. Right up until Wednesday Elphicke was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Tories’ warped perversion of democracy, she was a strong proponent of the hideous Rwanda plan and often spoke of the need for even tougher measures to be taken against asylum seekers. Now she sits as a Labour MP. Labour ought to have made the political refugee Natalie Elphicke go and live on the Bibby Stockholm while they processed her asylum application. Will BBC Scotland ask Anas Sarwar if he shares his political values with Natalie Elphicke? We all know the answer to that question. If Sarwar and Jackie Baillie wanted to show us the change they meant, we can now see it very clearly.

In 2022, Elphicke used a debate on P&O sacking 800 workers and replacing them with cheaper foreign workers as an opportunity to attack trade unions. In 2021, she suggested that Marcus Rashford missed a penalty because he spent too much time pursuing free school meals for deprived kids left to go hungry because of Tory cuts to the benefits system.

She now sits as a Labour MP. Since becoming an MP in 2019, Elphicke has voted persistently and consistently to increase inequality in this country in a great many ways, and yet today, Keir Starmer says she shares the values of that Labour Party he is always boasting about having changed. He’s changed it alright, he’s changed it into a party in which the likes of hard-right Tory MP Natalie Elphicke feel politically at home but which has no place for Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, former Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali or left-wing activist Femi Oluwole.

Chair of the Labour Party Anneliese Dodds said on Wednesday that she welcomed Natalie Elphicke into Labour and is overjoyed to see Elphicke in her party, explaining that Elphicke is absolutely passionate about changing the country for the better. Some politicians are driven by ideology. Dodds is doing this for a ministerial car. Dodds has ransacked her dignity, not that she had much.

— Keir Starmer.

Under Keir Starmer, you can be too left-wing to be a member of the Labour Party, but apparently, you can never be too right-wing. Who will be the next member of the Labour party to be warmly welcomed and embraced by Keir Starmer? Suella Braverman? Nigel Farage? The chief editor of GB News?

A political opportunist like Natalie Elphicke, who was parachuted into the Conservative nomination after the incumbent Tory MP, her former husband Charlie Elphicke, was convicted of three counts of sexual assault and sentenced to two years in jail is always going to do what she sees as being in her own personal interests, to hell with the constituents who elected her expecting her to represent a very different party. Lisa Cameron’s constituents can sympathise. That’s not really the point. Elphicke can see as clearly as the rest of us that the writing is not just on the wall for the Tories under Sunak, it’s also on the ceiling, the floor and and the furniture. Or perhaps these defections are really part of a cunning Tory plan to render Labour unelectable by bringing it down to their level. If so, Starmer is an eager and willing collaborator.

The question here is not what this defection tells us about Natalie Elphicke, nor what the previous defections told us about erstwhile Tory MPs Christian Wakeford or Dan Poulter. These dyed-in-the-wool Tories did not suddenly have a road to Damascus conversion to centre-left politics. They were Tories at heart when they were elected as Conservative MPs and they remain Tories at heart still. The real question is what do these defections and the warm welcome by Keir Starmer and his allies tell us about the state of the Labour Party.

They tell us that Starmer’s Labour Party is a place in which right-wing Conservatives can feel at home, a party which has abandoned all of its former left-wing principles and which has fully embraced the centre-right. Labour is now the Tory party that the Conservatives used to be before Brexit driving them insane. The only change that Starmer stands for is to expunge any left-wing element from mainstream British politics and to replace the smug and self-satisfied liar Rishi Sunak with the smug and self-satisfied liar Keir Starmer.



▪ This piece was first published in Wee Ginger Dug and re-published in PUBLIC SQUARE UK on 9 May 2024 under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
Cover: Flickr/Keir Starmer. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)
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