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Tory Party Turmoil: Elphicke Defects to Labour Amid Jenrick’s Immigration Clash as Leadership Battle Looms

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Natalie Elphicke's switch to Labour and Robert Jenrick's actions regarding immigration reveal deep divisions within the Conservative Party. These events underscore a fundamental ideological struggle within the party, a conflict that is expected to persist up until the upcoming election.

Political correspondent @BethRigby

Wednesday, May 8, 2024, 6:

Following a dismal performance in the local elections, Rishi Sunak continues to hold office at Downing Street, although his party is looking ahead.

During the weekend, ex-home secretary Suella Braverman directed a notably personal critique towards the prime minister while addressing her party.

On Wednesday, Robert Jenrick completed his task.

However, the approach taken by the previous immigration minister set him apart from his competitor in the leadership race.

Mr. Jenrick's contribution took the form of a detailed 120-page document on migration policies, titled "Stopping the Crossings," which proposed a range of policy measures for the prime minister to adopt immediately.

Central to his stance is the point that the majority of the nation is worried about substantial immigration rates, and it is crucial for the Conservative Party to pledge again to reduce immigration to the "tens of thousands," thereby upholding the Brexit commitment to manage borders and decrease immigration levels.

Mr. Jenrick described the local elections as "appalling" and suggested that Mr. Sunak must urgently address immigration issues to avoid a significant defeat in the upcoming general election.

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Labour asserts that there is no role for Nigel Farage in the party following the switch of a conservative MP.

"He admitted to me, 'The local election outcomes were dreadful. There's no point in sugarcoating it.'"

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"They indicate a significant potential loss for the government in the upcoming general election unless we shift strategies and regain the support of Conservative voters who are presently either not backing us or leaning towards Reform, which showed strong performance in the recent local elections."

"We need to take some time for reflection, but it must be brief as we are running out of time."

"Next, we must develop policies that address the public's worries."

"In my view, the key aspect to regain the support of both Reform voters and Conservative voters from 2019, who believe the party has strayed from its conservative principles, is the issue of legal migration."

"That's the reason I believe the prime minister and the government have the ability to adopt and put into action the suggestions we've provided in the forthcoming weeks."

His interjection was perfectly timed.

Within three hours, Natalie Elphicke, the Member of Parliament for Dover—a constituency significantly affected by unauthorized boat crossings—switched allegiance to the Labour Party.

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Her statement: "Concerning everything from border control to biosecurity, Rishi Sunak's administration is not succeeding in securing our borders. Lives are being lost in the English Channel, and the number of small boat arrivals is reaching record highs once again. It is evident that they have not managed to secure our borders and are not trustworthy."

Numerous Conservatives were puzzled by Ms. Elphicke's decision to switch sides, especially considering her longstanding position on the party's right wing and her recent strong criticisms of Sir Keir Starmer’s approach to immigration.

It highlights the fragmentation of a party that appears directionless – illustrating that on the same day, regarding the same issue, one Conservative warns of the dangers posed by Reform regarding migration policy, while another switches allegiance to Labour.

At the heart of these events is a struggle for the party's identity, which will culminate following the general election, yet will persistently unfold up until the day of voting.

Discover more: Who is Natalie Elphicke? Is it possible for the UK to benefit fully following the cyberattack on China's Ministry of Defense?

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Andy Street, following his loss of the West Midlands mayoral position, expressed to me on Saturday evening that his approach, which emphasized a "moderate, inclusive, tolerant Conservative Party that consistently delivered results," should be maintained. He urged his party members to avoid shifting too far right in upcoming leadership battles, highlighting that his style of Conservative governance nearly succeeded in retaining control of the West Midlands even as the broader national sentiment moved away from the Conservative Party.

Yet, it appears that debate has already been conceded

Mr. Jenrick, who maintains that regulating lawful immigration is a "completely common stance held by most of the population," presents a valid argument: it was the One Nation Conservative David Cameron and his successor, Theresa May, who advocated for significantly tighter restrictions on immigration numbers.

In his interview, he seemed more focused on countering the challenge from the right than on maintaining a centrist position.

Stay updated on the most recent developments from the UK and globally by following Sky News.

He articulates unequivocally his views on migration, emphasizing that the Conservative Party must counter the challenge posed by the Reform Party. He also openly expresses his willingness to welcome Nigel Farage, a prominent figure in this competing party, back into the Conservative fold.

For most of his peers, such a concept is repulsive, yet Mr. Jenrick understands the key battlegrounds in the upcoming Conservative leadership race, with migration poised to be a decisive factor in garnering support from party members.

Mr. Jenrick expressed his confidence that Mr. Sunak might put some of these suggestions into action, passing a limit on legal immigration and reducing the figures soon.

However, this truly serves as an appeal for the post-Sunak era, as the contest for leadership continues within a party that seems to have conceded defeat even before the casting of any votes in the general election.

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