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UK PM Rishi Sunak suffers defection of MP amid charge of ‘incompetence’

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, said the Tories under Sunak 'have become a byword for incompetence and division' in a resignation statement just moments before the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions.
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 14:09 IST
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 14:09 IST

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London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday suffered a humiliating defection from his party benches as a Conservative member of Parliament walked across the floor of the House of Commons to join the Opposition Labour ranks.

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, said the Tories under Sunak 'have become a byword for incompetence and division' in a resignation statement just moments before the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

The 43-year-old British Indian leader went on to face off with Labour Leader Keir Starmer, who made the most of the shock move which marks the second defection from the Tories to Labour in two weeks and comes on the back of bruising local election results for the governing party.

"When I was elected in 2019, the Conservative Party occupied the centre ground of British politics. The party was about building the future and making the most of the opportunities that lay ahead for our country," Elphicke, a staunch critic of the Labour Party until only a few days ago, said in her resignation letter.

"Since then, many things have changed. The elected prime minister was ousted in a coup led by the unelected Rishi Sunak. Under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives have become a byword for incompetence and division. The centre ground has been abandoned and key pledges of the 2019 manifesto have been ditched," she said.

She added that the Labour Party under Starmer has 'changed out of all recognition' and its policies 'can be trusted'.

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

The dramatic moment of her crossing the floor of the House was followed by Starmer asking Sunak: 'What is the point of this failed government staggering on' when the Tory MP on the front line of the small boats migration crisis on the coastline of Dover has openly attacked Sunak’s handling of a priority issue like illegal migration.

"If he thinks his own MPs joining the Labour Party are wrong if he thinks anyone believes any of the nonsense that he spouts, why doesn't he put it to the test and call a general election," questioned Starmer, in a series of stinging attacks during PMQs.

Sunak chose to ignore the question, instead accusing his opponent of having 'out of touch values' with the British people.

"He snipes from the sidelines, the Conservatives are building a better future," said Sunak.

At the end of April, Dan Poulter, a doctor and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich member of Parliament for the Tories, had announced he was switching his allegiance to Labour before standing down as a parliamentarian at the next general election because he can no longer defend the Tory government’s track record on the National Health Service (NHS).

According to reports, Labour will retain its existing candidate in the newly carved Dover and Deal constituency at the next general election later this year and Elphicke will stand down, with her future plans unclear.

"The people of Dover and Deal will be disappointed having felt the impact of illegal immigration. They did have an MP who sat with the party fighting to tackle this issue head-on, now they have an MP in a party that has worked to block our plans to tackle illegal immigration 139 times," a Conservative Party spokesperson said.

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Published 08 May 2024, 14:09 IST

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