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Natalie Elphicke apologises for comments about ex-husband’s victims

  • By Becky Morton
  • BBC political journalist

Image source, Getty Images

MP Natalie Elphicke – who left the Conservatives to join Labor – has apologized for comments she made in support of her ex-husband after he was convicted of sexual assault.

Charlie Elphicke was convicted of sexually assaulting two women in 2020.

Some Labor MPs had raised concerns about him, saying he was “an easy target” for false allegations because he was “attractive”.

The Dover MP joined the Labor Party on Wednesday.

In a statement released Thursday, she said she knew her defection would “highlight the prosecution of my ex-husband.”

“The 2017-2020 period was incredibly stressful and difficult for me as I learned more about the person I thought I knew. I know it was much more difficult for women who had to relive their experiences and testify against him.” she says.

“I have previously condemned and do condemn his behavior towards other women and towards me. It was right that he was prosecuted and I am sorry for the comments I made about his victims.”

Mr Elphicke, who was his predecessor as MP for Dover, was jailed for two years in 2020 for sexual assault.

Ms Elphicke ended their marriage after his conviction, but supported his unsuccessful appeal.

In September 2020, she told the Sun newspaper that he was “an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations” because he was “attractive and attracted to women”.

His previous comments had sparked criticism from some Labor MPs.

Jess Phillips, the former shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said Ms Elphicke should be “held to account”.

She told ITV’s Peston: “I’m all for forgiveness but I think it needs some explaining.”

Ms Elphicke said she would stand down as an MP at the next election, with Labor retaining its current candidate for the Dover and Deal constituency.

Announcing her surprise defection on Wednesday, she blasted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, saying that under his leadership the Conservatives “had become synonymous with incompetence and division”.

She said the government’s record on housing and border security were key factors behind its decision, accusing Mr Sunak of broken promises and abandoning key pledges.

Video caption, Watch: Natalie Elphicke takes her place on the Labor benches

Some Labor MPs have also expressed concern that Ms Elphicke’s political views do not align with those of the party.

The MP, who was seen as being to the right of the Conservative Party, had previously criticized Labour’s stance on immigration.

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield said her colleagues were “baffled” by Ms Elphicke’s defection and that she did not “believe for a second that (Ms Elphicke) had suddenly turned into a Labor MP”.

John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, told LBC he was “surprised and shocked”, adding: “I’m a big believer in conversion powers, but I think even this one would have put generosity to the test. from the spirit of John the Baptist, in all honesty.

Dover District Council Labor leader Kevin Mills said what he had in common with Ms Elphicke was “a limb in every corner of my body”.

He told BBC Radio Kent that he was happy that she had realized that “the only party that can improve this country is the Labor Party”, but that he had “real concerns” about her defection.

Mr Mills added that he would work with her, even if they disagreed on issues such as the dispute over P&O Ferries redundancies and cuts to border controls.

However, Labor Party president Anneliese Dodds said Ms Elphicke was a “natural good fit” for her party, adding: “People can change their minds.”

Labor said she could take on an unpaid role advising the party on housing policy.

She campaigned for rent freezes and against homelessness – areas where she has common ground with the Labor Party.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said Ms Elphicke’s defection showed Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer was “an opportunist” with no “fundamental beliefs”.

“(The Labor Party) seems to think it’s good to bring people into the party who think completely different things – or who believed last week – than they do,” he added.

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