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Tory turncoat Natalie Elphicke fails to show for first Labour backbench meeting | Politics | News

Tory turncoat Natalie Elphicke failed to show for the first meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night. Dozens of Sir Keir Starmer’s backbenchers gathered for a briefing on the party’s latest transport policies.

But Mrs Elphicke, who shocked Westminster by deserting the Tories, did not attend. And Labour MPs claimed her defection – which has caused widespread anger within the party – was not even raised during the meeting, which lasted just 23 minutes.

One even quipped to waiting journalists: “You didn’t really expect her to come, did you? »

The Right-winger’s shock decision to abandon the party for Labour has left Conservative enforcers looking for a “needle in a haystack” as they try to see off potential quitters.

Party whips carrying out their regular weekend phone calls with backbenchers at the weekend were checking for signs of upset.

They are said to be looking closely at those who have friendships across the floor, after Ms Elphicke’s switch was masterminded by Labour’s John Healey.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer dismissed suggestions he would defect to Labour, telling Times Radio: « There are a number of painful and probably fatal things I’d rather do than defect to the Labour Party. »

The Prime Minister said the defection « shows less about her and it’s more about Keir Starmer« .

Rishi Sunak said: « It shows him to be completely and utterly unprincipled. This is someone who went from embracing Jeremy Corbyn to embracing Natalie Elphicke.

« It just tells you that you can’t trust what the guy says. If you are trying to be everything to everyone, fundamentally you don’t stand for anything. »

Dover MP Ms Elphicke quit the Tories in protest against housing policy and the failure to curb small boat crossings of the English Channel.

But Mr Sunak told reporters following a speech in London: « As Natalie Elphicke herself said, in the not-too-distant past, Labour are an ‘open borders, pro-immigration party that doesn’t want to stop the boats’. Her words, not mine. »

Meanwhile, unease within Labour and the unions over Ms Elphicke’s defection intensified.

A Labour MP said there should be an independent investigation into allegations that Ms Elphicke asked then-justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland to intervene in her then-husband Charlie Elphicke’s case in 2020.

Labour has said Ms Elphicke « totally rejects that characterisation of the meeting ».

Former shadow minister for tackling domestic violence Jess Phillips told LBC: « I think questions have to be answered now.

« I don’t know how one would prove if two people are saying two different things, it’s not my wheelhouse, it’s not my pay grade, there are questions to be answered, there are apologies to be made and there is work to do and I maintain that position. »

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