Second UK Conservative lawmaker in two weeks defects to opposition Labour

By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) -Another lawmaker from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party defected to the opposition Labour Party on Wednesday, the second to do so in less than two weeks, criticising what she called broken promises of a "tired and chaotic government".

Sunak's Conservatives trail Labour by about 20 points in opinion polls ahead of a national election expected this year, and the party suffered heavy losses in local elections last week.

Natalie Elphicke, who represents the Dover constituency on the south coast of England, defected just before Sunak made his weekly appearance at prime minister's questions in parliament.

"Under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives have become a byword for incompetence and division," Elphicke said in a statement.

Elphicke is the third Conservative lawmaker to defect to Labour since the last election in 2019.

Dan Poulter, a former health minister, defected last month saying the government's record on the state-run National Health Service (NHS) - one of Sunak's five priorities for the country - meant he could no longer represent the Conservatives.


Elphicke, a former finance lawyer, won her seat in parliament at the last election after her husband who represented the area was forced to stand down since being found guilty of sexually assaulting two women.

While Elphicke supported the government's plans to reduce illegal immigration and was viewed as being on the right of the Conservative Party, she accused Sunak of abandoning the centre ground of British politics.

Elphicke said Sunak's government had failed to stop the arrival of small boats carrying asylum seekers across the Channel from France, had failed to build enough homes, and had overseen a rise in homelessness.

"We need to move on from the broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic Government," she said.

"The General Election cannot come soon enough."

Asked if Sunak was worried about how the defections look to the public, his spokesperson said the prime minister was focused on people's priorities from the economy and immigration to the NHS.

The Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed Elphicke and asked in parliament: "What is the point of this failed government staggering on?"

Starmer's spokesperson said Labour had been talking to Elphicke about a defection for "some time". Elphicke will not stand for Labour at the next election, but could be offered a role with the party developing housing policy, the spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Muvija M and Andrew MacAskill, Editing by Kate Holton, Michael Holden and Andrew Cawthorne)