Natalie Elphicke is everything that’s wrong with politics

Labour’s right-wing defector reminds us of the emptiness of many of our MPs.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater

Topics Politics UK

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‘Who?’ So said a bemused nation yesterday as someone called Natalie Elphicke made headline news, after the right-wing Conservative MP for Dover defected to the Labour Party. She is hardly high-profile. She has only ever made the news for terrible reasons. Nor is she the first Tory MP to succumb to Keir Starmer’s advances. Someone named Dan Poulter did the same thing two weeks ago and almost no one outside SW1 noticed. But Elphicke’s crossing of the floor was pushed up the agenda by how bizarre it all seemed to be, given the things she claims to believe in.

There are plenty of Tory MPs who are so wet and middle of the road they could conceivably be in several other parties. Reportedly, chancellor Jeremy Hunt once said he supported the Conservatives because his parents supported the Conservatives. Not so for Nat. She is (was?) firmly on the right of politics, particularly when it comes to migration. Her coastal constituency is on the frontline of the small-boats crisis and she’s been a big booster of the Rwanda scheme. She even wrote an article, in April 2023, titled ‘Don’t trust Labour on immigration they really want open borders’.

What a difference a year makes. ‘Rishi Sunak’s government is failing to keep our borders safe and secure’, Elphicke said in her statement yesterday. I think most people can agree with that. But it instantly begged the question of why she thinks her new party leader, a man she once dubbed ‘Sir Softy’, will fare any better, given his immigration policy seems to be to junk Rwanda and then hope for the best.

Almost more puzzling is Labour’s embrace of Elphicke. For your average Labourite she’s basically a panto villain – the sort of posh Home Counties right-winger they despise and mock almost as much as they despise and mock White Van Man. She even once dared to have a pop at Marcus Rashford – a secular saint among centrist dads – after he missed his penalty in the Euros final. Rachel Reeves, now the shadow chancellor, was so incensed by this she told Elphicke to ‘Fuck off’.

On a purely personal level, Elphicke seems more of a liability than an asset. She basically inherited her seat from her husband, Charlie Elphicke, after he was done for sexual assault. She continued to defend him, claiming his only crime was to be ‘attractive, and attracted to, women’. Stand by your man, I guess. Much more shockingly, she – along with a few other Tory MPs – tried to influence his trial, writing letters to judges on House of Commons paper. This is not one of parliament’s great minds we’re talking about here.

Of course, both sides get something out of it. Starmer gets another 24-hour news cycle about the Tories being in disarray. He gets to wind up the left of his party (mission accomplished) and signal to the electorate that maybe Labour can be trusted on migration, contrary to the smears of the right-wing press and 2023 Natalie Elphicke. Elphicke is standing down at the next election, but presumably there’s a peerage or plum job in this for her.

But I can’t be the only one thinking this weird dalliance shows that something is rotten in our politics. Forget left and right, Leave and Remain, borders or no borders, our politicians now tend to fall into one of two camps: those who don’t believe in anything and those who are willing to sell out their supposedly long-held principles at the earliest opportunity. Keir Starmer is in the former – a man who has seemingly no passionately held views beyond ‘I should be prime minister’. Elphicke, it seems, is in the latter. Arguably, she’s not even the worst offender from the anti-immigration right. After all, the Conservative Party oversaw record legal and illegal migration, all while Priti Patel and Suella Braverman ran the Home Office. Joining Labour is only marginally more absurd than being a right-wing Tory home secretary who presides over mass migration, and then carps about mass migration from the Tory back benches.

Keir Starmer might want us to think that Natalie Elphicke’s defection shows a Labour Party that is conquering all before it, just as Tony Blair nicked MPs from the Tories before and after the 1997 landslide. But if anything it demonstrates why the public are so demoralised with politics at the minute. While voters have had enough of the pathetic Tories, no one is enthusiastic for Labour. Starmer’s soaring poll leads obscure a lot of undecideds. When even MPs are straining to work out what they believe in, or what party they belong to, you can hardly blame them.

Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK


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