Labour chairwoman says Elphicke ‘held accountable’ for sexual assault comments

Natalie Elphicke has been made accountable for past comments she made defending her ex-husband after he was convicted for sexual assault, Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds has said.

Ms Elphicke quit the Conservatives just moments before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, hitting out at Rishi Sunak’s “tired and chaotic government” and accusing the Prime Minister of failing to deliver on his promise to “stop the boats”.

But her debut as a Labour MP has not been welcomed by all of her new colleagues, with some raising concerns about her views and comments she made after her former husband and predecessor as MP for Dover Charlie Elphicke was convicted in 2020 of sexually assaulting two women and sentenced to two years in prison.

Ms Elphicke ended the marriage after his conviction but supported his unsuccessful appeal, saying Elphicke had been “attractive, and attracted to women” and “an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations”.

“There was accountability for Natalie Elphicke in the fact that there was a parliamentary process around this.

“Now, it’s quite right that there was a parliamentary process, as I say Natalie Elphicke has gone through that, and I believe that she has addressed this in Parliament and in public, and rightly so, because this is a very serious subject.”

Asked how Ms Elphicke could be admitted to Labour when MP Diane Abbott remains suspended over comments relating to antisemitism, Ms Dodds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the party has an independent process that operates “without fear or favour”.

The Labour Party chairwoman was also asked on Today about Ms Elphicke’s past comment that footballer Marcus Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time on politics after England lost in the European Championship.

Anneliese Dodds
Anneliese Dodds has been responding in the media to questions about comments previously made by new Labour MP Ms Elphicke (PA)

Ms Elphicke had previously criticised Labour’s immigration policy but said on Wednesday that under Sir Keir Starmer, the party has changed. She said the “key deciding factors” in her defection were housing issues and “the safety and security of our borders”.

Ms Dodds told BBC Breakfast that she believes Elphicke is a good fit for Labour and said that “people can change their minds”.

“Natalie Elphicke is taking the same decision as so many other former Conservative supporters up and down the country” by switching her allegiance to Labour, Ms Dodds said.

But former prime minister Lord David Cameron said her defection showed Labour stood for nothing.

Answering questions after a speech in London, the Foreign Secretary said: “What does this tell us about the party she’s joining? In life, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

“I thought that’s sort of what yesterday showed, that there isn’t a policy about anything, it’s just been about clearing the decks to try and focus attention on the governing party.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan meanwhile said Natalie Elphicke was a “very odd fit” for the Labour Party considering the Dover MP’s views on immigration.

Charlie and Natalie Elphicke
Natalie Elphicke supported her ex-husband Charlie Elphicke’s unsuccessful appeal (Dominic LipinskiPA)

She said it was not clear what deal Ms Elphicke had made to cross the floor to Labour and there is “all kinds of speculation” as to why she would do so.

“So, I don’t really know her very well but clearly she has had a massive 180 degree change in some of her views miraculously, I guess overnight, and I’m not 100% sure how you can change your views and principles that quickly,” Ms Keegan said.

Ms Elphicke is standing down at the general election.

Despite the backlash within the Labour Party, the defection was another blow for the Prime Minister, after MP Dan Poulter’s decision to leave the Tories for Labour in April and the dismal local election results for the Conservatives last week.

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