Who is Natalie Elphicke - and why did she defect from Tories to Labour?

Tory MP Natalie Elphicke has defected from the party to Labour, heavily criticising the prime minister and her former party.

The MP for Dover hit out at the “broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic Government” in a statement issued moments before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. She then crossed the floor in the Commons to sit on the Labour benches for the first time.

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Natalie Elphicke has defected to Labour from the Tories (David Woolfall/UK Parliament) (PA Media)
Natalie Elphicke has defected to Labour from the Tories (David Woolfall/UK Parliament) (PA Media)

“I have carefully considered this decision,” Ms Elphicke said in her statement. “The change has been dramatic and cannot be ignored. “For me key deciding factors have been housing and the safety and security of our borders.”

She becomes the third Conservative MP to leave the party for the opposition benches, dealing another blow to Mr Sunak’s government after a bruising result in last week’s local elections.

As per parliamentary rules, she will remain MP for Dover as a Labour politician but is planning on standing down when a general election is called later this year.

Here’s everything you need to know about the latest MP to defect from the Tories:

Who is Natalie Elphicke?

Before entering politics, Ms Elphicke had a successful career in Law. She studied at the University of Kent before becoming a barrister in 1994 and solicitor in 1999 at Lincoln’s Inn, London.

From the early 2010s, she carved a path in housing policy, authoring a report on the topic for the conservative think-tank Policy Exchange. Ms Elphicke also ran the Conservative Policy Forum when it was launched in 2011.

Leaving her role at a law firm in 2013, she set up a housing association which aimed to build 1 million affordable homes in the UK.

That same year, she co-authored a report into social housing funding in the country which led to the formation of the Housing and Finance Institute, of which she remained chief executive until becoming MP for Dover in 2019. She was awarded an OBE in 2015 for her services to housing.

Charlie Elphicke with his now ex-wife outside court (PA)
Charlie Elphicke with his now ex-wife outside court (PA)

Jailing of ex-husband, former MP Charlie Elphicke

The constituency had previously been represented by her then-husband, Charlie Elphicke, who stood down after being charged with three counts of sexual assault against two women.

Mr Elphicke was jailed for two years in 2020. Speaking after his conviction Ms Elphicke said that while her partner had “behaved badly”, his sentencing was “excessive” and claimed the court was “on a bit of a mission”. The couple divorced in 2021.

The same year, she was found to have breached the Commons code of conduct for attempting to influence senior judges in her husband’s sentencing appeal. She apologised and received a one-day suspension from parliament.

Clashes with Marcus Rashford, Starmer and Reeves

Ms Elphicke criticised England footballer and social campaigner Marcus Rashford in 2020 after his crucial penalty miss at the Euro 2020 final, messaging colleagues: “They lost – would it be ungenerous to say Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics.”

Following the MP’s criticism, Mr Rashford wrote in The Spectator: “Disappointingly for some, the ‘stick to football’ advice doesn’t cut it where I’m from. I’d be doing [my] community and my family a disservice if I did not use my platform to speak on behalf of the millions whose voices are not being heard.”

The Man United star had successfully campaigned during the Covid pandemic for the government to extend free school meals. Further outrage was stoked when it was later revealed that Ms Elphicke was receiving £36,000 a year from her role as chair of the New Homes Quality Board.

Speaking on a podcast about the incident, Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Ms Elphicke could “f*** off”.

Ms Elphicke also regularly pens opinion columns for the Express newspaper, where she regularly criticises the Labour party. In April last year, The MP wrote that Labour could not be trusted on immigration, labelling leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer, “Sir Softie”.