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Labour’s Bold Gamble: Embracing Tory Defector Natalie Elphicke in a Bid to Capture Conservative Voters

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Adam Boulton: Labour is betting that a Tory MP's switch signals a shift in political currents.

Sir Keir Starmer is signaling to ex-Conservative voters that his Labour Party is a secure refuge, particularly for those, like Natalie Elphicke, who have significant concerns about immigration.

Sky News analyst @adamboultonTABB

Sunday, May 12, 2024, 11:

The Labour Party is reeling from the leadership's choice to embrace the defection of Natalie Elphicke, a right-wing ex-Conservative MP.

On the day prior to her dramatic switch to the opposition benches during Prime Minister's Questions, Elphicke handed out flyers in her Dover district criticizing Sir Keir Starmer.

On Wednesday, to the shock of MPs from all parties, he extended his hand backwards from the front bench to greet her, and subsequently took the opportunity to pose for cheerful photos together.

Elphicke becomes the second Conservative MP in two weeks to join the Labour Party. She, along with Dr. Dan Poulter, has announced plans to retire at the next general election, choosing not to contend for their current seats or any other.

Labour maintains that neither individual has been guaranteed a spot in the House of Lords in the next honors list.

Lee Anderson, who recently left the Conservative Party to become an independent, has indicated plans to run as a candidate for Reform UK in his constituency of Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

The adage "nobody likes a turncoat" hasn't deterred certain Members of Parliament from changing their party loyalties.

Further Details on Labour

Following gains in local elections, Starmer is set to convene with a newly formed group of mayors to talk about devolution

Under a Labour administration, Starmer would immediately stop flights to Rwanda.

Sir Keir Starmer is confident that the deportation flights to Rwanda will eventually take place, yet he asserts that the Labour Party would immediately terminate the program upon taking office.

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Regardless of how party members and constituents respond to the alterations, those who switch parties are gambling with their professional futures. Typically, their political prospects decline following the shift.

Since Margaret Thatcher assumed office in 1979, a total of 202 current parliamentarians have switched their political party affiliations.

Over half of them either stepped down from the party whip or were stripped of it due to personal disputes or disciplinary actions.

The actual count of individuals who can be truly categorized as committed "defectors", those determined to raise uncomfortable political issues, is significantly lower.

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In the current legislative session, an impressive number of 39 Members of Parliament have shifted their political loyalties. Twenty-four of these MPs were stripped of their party endorsement, six faced suspension, and nine chose to resign.

Among these, merely six are considered traditional defectors. Included in this group are Elphicke, Poulter, and Anderson, along with Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey who switched from the SNP to Alba, and also Christian Wakeford.

In January 2022, Wakeford became the inaugural defector from the Conservatives to Labour, motivated by his revulsion at the partygate scandal.

He has been chosen to represent the Labour Party in the competitive district of Bury South. There are strong signs that his prospects for re-election this year are more favorable there than with his previous conservative affiliation.

Few defectors achieve notable success in politics following their departure.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Labour Party was deeply divided by internal ideological conflicts.

Twenty-eight Labour MPs, along with one from the Conservative Party, defected to align themselves with Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams in the newly established, centrist Social Democratic Party.

At the 1983 General Election, just six members were re-elected to parliament.

Five years after its formation, the SDP underwent a division when its leaders, Robert Maclennan and Charles Kennedy, departed from the party. They sought to amalgamate with the Liberals to form the new Liberal Democrat Party.

Kennedy endured prolonged and intense harassment from individuals who aligned with David Owen in the residual SDP, which later dissolved in 1990 following its electoral defeat by the Monster Raving Loony Party in the Bootle by-election.

Stay informed on the most recent developments both in the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

In 2017, moderates found themselves at the center of fresh turmoil following the referendum on EU membership.

Eight Labour and three Conservative MPs, all of whom were against Brexit, stepped down from their party roles. The recently established Change Party struggled to thrive.

None of the individuals in question are active Members of Parliament or part of the House of Lords. Former Labour MPs, John Woodcock and Ian Austin, who departed from the party due to disagreements with Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, were later given peerages by the Conservative Party.

Elphicke represents a small group of women who have switched parties. Two of these women, after brief stints with the Lib Dems, have since returned to their original parties.

Emma Nicholson has returned to the Conservative Party, while Luciana Berger is actively supporting Sir Keir Starmer's campaign.

Learn more: What occurs when a Member of Parliament switches parties? Lord Cameron criticizes Labour for lacking clear principles following their acceptance of former Tory MP Natalie Elphicke.

Only a small number of defectors manage to regain positions in the cabinet.

In the 1970s, Reg Prentice held prominent positions in the Labour government, serving as both the Secretary for Education and for Overseas Development. However, his political career faced a setback when Trotskyist elements within the Militant Tendency led to his deselection as the Labour candidate for Newham North East.

He won the seat for the Conservative Party in Daventry during the 1979 elections and held a position as a health minister in Margaret Thatcher's administration.

Before this current session, the most recent instance of a Member of Parliament switching from one major party to another occurred thirty years ago, just before Tony Blair's overwhelming electoral win in 1997.

Currently, members shifting their allegiance from the Conservative Party to the Labour Party echo the strategic realignments happening in expectation of a Conservative loss.

Alan Howarth and Shaun Woodward, a pair of Conservative MPs who switched allegiance directly to the Labour Party, were chosen to contest elections in secure Labour constituencies in 1997, subsequently ascending to ministerial positions.

Howarth had once served as a minister for the Conservative government. Woodward had held the position of director of communications for the Conservative party.

Nicholson, Prentice, and Howarth found themselves members of the House of Lords, joined by Peter Temple-Morris, who left the Conservative Party out of alignment with New Labour, and Hugh Dykes, who moved to the Liberal Democrats.

Woodward along with Peter Thurnham, another former Conservative, have not been granted peerages.

In recent history within the Conservative Party, two notable factions of dissenters have either faced suspension or been expelled from the party.

In 1994, twelve staunch Eurosceptics, affectionately dubbed Whipless Wonders by their allies or pejoratively called "bastards" in anticipation of intervention by "the men in white coats" by Prime Minister John Major, were stripped of their whip for opposing a segment of Kenneth Clarke's budget.

A few months later, the whip was reinstated. The defectors, whose dissent was temporary, did not succeed in ousting Major and most have passed away since then.

They will be recognized for igniting the spark against the EU that ultimately caused the Tory party to fracture.

In his determined effort to finalize Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson harshly stripped 21 prominent Conservative MPs of their party privileges because they disagreed with his approach.

The individuals expelled were Rory Stewart, Ken Clarke, David Gauke, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, Nicholas Soames, and Philip Hammond.

Amber Rudd stepped down in objection. A few were given the opportunity to reclaim their whip, yet merely a select few contested in the 2019 Commons elections. Of those, only Greg Hands and Caroline Nokes intend to contend in the forthcoming general election. Peerages were conferred upon Nicholas Soames, Ed Vaizey, and Ken Clarke.

Individuals who switch political parties typically face criticism from the party they abandon, while receiving acclaim from the members of their new party.

Natalie Elphicke's situation has been different. Conservatives are ridiculing Labour for embracing a right-leaning figure who clashes with the core principles of the Labour Party.

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Labour Party members are expressing confusion and irritation. Additionally, some female members of the party are particularly upset that she tried to defend her husband and former Dover MP, Charlie Elphicke, dubbed "naughty Tory," who was jailed for sexual assault. The pair later separated.

Sir Keir Starmer expressed his pleasure in welcoming her aboard, emphasizing to former Conservative supporters that his Labour Party represents a secure refuge, particularly for those, like Elphicke, who have significant concerns about immigration.

We've been informed that she has a well-established interest in housing issues and will serve as an advisor to Labour on this topic.

In her resignation letter, 43-year-old Elphicke sharply criticized Rishi Sunak for being "unelected" and described the governing Conservative party as synonymous with "incompetence and division."

Labour is betting that her switch to their ranks will signal to observers the current direction of political trends, as previous defectors have indicated before.

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