Ex-Tory Natalie Elphicke accused of lobbying ministers over former husband

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for freeRoula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favorite tales on this weekly e-newsletter.Natalie Elphicke, the MP who final week sensationally defected from the Conservatives to Labour, has been accused of lobbying ministers over her then-husband Charlie Elphicke’s sexual assault case 4 years in the past. The allegations elevate contemporary questions over the judgment of Labour chief Sir Keir Starmer in permitting the rightwing MP for Dover to hitch his occasion. Starmer appeared triumphant within the Home of Commons throughout Prime Minister’s Questions final Wednesday as he revealed the second such defection in two weeks. He steered it proved the more and more extensive political enchantment of the primary opposition occasion, which has a roughly 20-point lead in opinion polls forward of the overall election anticipated this yr.However many Labour MPs have been livid about the transfer, partly due to Elphicke’s rightwing views on points together with immigration and due to previous feedback she made in assist of her disgraced ex-husband after he was convicted of and jailed for sexual assault 4 years in the past. Sir Robert Buckland, Tory former justice secretary, has confirmed a brand new report within the Sunday Instances newspaper that Elphicke met him earlier than her husband’s July 2020 trial and urged him to ask the judiciary to maneuver the trial from Southwark Crown Court docket in central London, in an obvious try and restrict publicity. Buckland refused to contemplate the requests, calling them a “constitutional outrage”. “She was advised in no unsure terms it could have been fully inappropriate to talk to the choose concerning the trial in any respect,” he mentioned. One particular person near Buckland, who served as justice secretary between 2019 and 2021, mentioned he had “by no means had something prefer it” throughout his tenure.Nevertheless, the Labour occasion mentioned: “Natalie Elphicke completely rejects that characterisation of the assembly. If Robert Buckland had any real considerations concerning the assembly, then he ought to have raised them on the time, fairly than making claims to the newspapers now Natalie has chosen to hitch the Labour occasion.”Requested by Sky News if he believed Elphicke’s denial, shadow paymaster normal Jonathan Ashworth mentioned on Sunday: “She mentioned it’s nonsense and never her interpretation of the assembly.”Shadow paymaster normal Jonathan Ashworth mentioned on Sunday that Natalie Elphicke’s defection revealed the ‘disintegration and decay’ within the Conservative occasion © Victoria Jones/PA WireThe Sunday Instances additionally reported claims that Sir Mark Spencer, then the Tory chief whip, later refused a request from Elphicke to rearrange one other assembly with Buckland in order that she might elevate considerations concerning the high quality of her husband’s pillows in jail. A spokesperson for Natalie Elphicke described that declare as “nonsense”, including: “It’s definitely true that Mr Elphicke continued to be supported after his imprisonment by a lot of Conservative MPs who had recognized him for a very long time, together with some who visited him and independently lobbied on his behalf, which was nothing to do with Natalie.”Natalie Elphicke grew to become MP for Dover in December 2019, after her then husband stood down from the position after being charged with sexual assault. They’ve since divorced.In late 2020 Elphicke was criticised by the office of the lord chief justice of England and Wales for an “improper” try and affect a choose listening to the trial of her then husband. In 2021, Elphicke was amongst a trio of MPs handed a one-day suspension from parliament by the Commons requirements committee in relation to their makes an attempt to affect the choose.On Thursday Elphicke apologised for saying in an interview after her then husband’s conviction that he was an “straightforward goal” for false allegations as a result of he was “engaging”.RecommendedOne Labour MP mentioned backbenchers have been nonetheless “livid” about the best way that Starmer had dealt with the defection. “He can’t succeed after an preliminary flush of enthusiasm if senior MPs don’t like or belief him, and most of us don’t,” they mentioned. “This may fester as he continues to disregard us.”However Ashworth mentioned Elphicke’s defection revealed the “disintegration and decay” within the Conservative occasion forward of the overall election. “She was massively, massively disenchanted and let down by the federal government’s failure to get younger folks on to the housing ladder and cope with issues within the rental market and their failure to convey order to our borders,” he mentioned. “However extra broadly, Natalie Elphicke, like Conservatives throughout the nation, are coming over to the Labour occasion, that’s a superb factor,” he added.

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