Politics latest: Tory MP defects to Labour - minutes before Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs (2024)

Key points
  • Sunak facing Starmer at PMQs - watch and follow live
  • Tory MP defects to Labour
  • Starmer tells PM to 'take the hint' and call election
  • Sam Coates: This will send shockwaves through Tory party
  • Gurpreet Narwan: PM helpless as Starmer revels in latest defection
  • Home Office 'should be split in two'
  • Swinney sworn in as Scotland's first minister
  • Ex-minister 'would not oppose' Farage return to Tory party
  • Pledge tracker: Is Sunak keeping his promises?
  • Live reporting byFaith Ridler


Tory MP defects to Labour

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, has defected to the Labour Party, it has just been announced.

She crossed the floor of the Commons shortly before Prime Minister's Questions began - the second Tory to do so in 10 days.

In a statement, she said "many things have changed" since she joined the Tories in 2019, and now "the modern Labour Party looks to the future".

Labour 'has changed out of all recognition'

She added: "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.

"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 says Labour under Sir Keir Starmer has "changed out of all recognition" and its policies "can be trusted".

Ms Elphicke said she "carefully considered" the decision, adding: "We need to move on from the broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic government."


Analysis: PM tries to put pressure on Starmer over Israel-Gaza stance

ByGurpreet Narwan, political correspondent

The government is turning the screw on Labour on the issue of Israel and Gaza.

The Labour leadership would rather not talk about it.

It is a tense issue that Labour is having to tread carefully and the party's stance is losing it support on its left flank.

The prime minister challenged Sir Keir Starmer on comments made by Sadiq Khan, the newly elected London mayor, who said there must be equally strong criticism of the actions of Hamas and Israel.

Rishi Sunak pushed Sir Keir to condemn such claims of equivalence.

Instead, Sir Keir changed the subject, shifting the focus on to the small boats crisis instead.

Stephen Flynn of the SNP has become a vocal opponent of the government's support for Israel at PMQs.

With Israel's military operation under way in Rafah, Israel's allies in the West are being pushed to their limits.

The US has already delayed an arms shipment and the government is coming under pressure to do the same.

Mr Flynn challenged the UK's continued sales of arms to Israel.

The PM downplayed the scale of those sales, saying the government's stance on exports was unchanged.

Mr Sunak said the government was "concerned" about Israel's military operation, but was careful to tow the line with his language.

You can follow more on this in our Middle East live blog:


'Right' that UK should have 'high standards in care sector', says Sunak

The next question comes from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who brings up the matter of abuse in care homes.

Describing the plight of 88-year-old Anne, Sir Ed says footage captured of such abuse before she died in October 2022 is "stomach churning".

It took nearly a year before a criminal investigation was launched, he says.

He asks whether Rishi Sunak will back Anne's Law - a proposal which includes a national register to professionalise the care workforce, and hold those who are abusive to account.

Mr Sunak extends his sympathies to Anne's family.

He says he will ensure that the government engages with the family on the law.

"He's right to say we should have high standards across the care industry," he tells Sir Ed.


Sunak repeats concerns over 'devastating impact' of Rafah incursion

The SNP's Stephen Flynn is next up, and congratulates party colleague John Swinney on his appointment as Scotland's first minister.

Mr Flynn turns to the conflict in the Middle East and asks whether the UK will follow the US in pausing arms sales to Israel.

"The gentleman may not realise that the UK government doesn't itself directly provide arms or ship arms to Israel," the prime minister says.

British companies, like BAE Systems, provide millions worth of arms, however.

"When it comes when it comes to the situation in Rafah, I've been very clear that we are deeply concerned about a full military incursion, given the devastating humanitarian impact [it would have]," he adds.

You can follow more on this in our Middle East live blog:


Starmer urges PM to call a general election

Sir Keir Starmer is back on his feet, urging the prime minister to call a general election once again.

He says: "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?"

Rishi Sunak ignores the question, instead accusing Sir Keir of having "out of touch values" with the British people.

He also claims Labour has no plans, saying: "He snipes from the sidelines, the Conservatives are building a better future."


PM 'getting ahead of himself' by asking me questions, quips Starmer

We now turn to why the Tories struggled so much during the local elections.

Sir Keir Starmer asks how many small boats have crossed the Channel since Rishi Sunak declared victory about his Rwanda scheme 16 days ago, with the PM hoping flights start taking off soon.

"They know there's nothing behind the… gimmicks, the smug smile. He's a dodgy salesman, desperate to sell them a dud," Sir Keir says.

The prime minister attempts to deflect and dodges the question entirely - instead turning on the Labour leader's stance on Israel, bizarrely asking him if he will "use the opportunity" of having the floor to apologise about its inconsistencies.

Sir Keir rises and instantly quips: "He's getting ahead of himself and asking me questions."

He then brings up that 2,400 small boats have made the journey in those 16 days "since the prime minister declared victory".

He dubs Rwanda "a gimmick, not a deterrent".


Analysis: Sunak helpless as Starmer revels in latest Tory defection to Labour

ByGurpreet Narwan, political correspondent

News broke of another MP defection to Labour just minutes before PMQs began.

Sir Keir Starmer revelled in the news, welcoming Natalie Elphicke to the party in his opening remarks.

She joins Dan Poulter, who also defected from the Conservatives to Labour just weeks ago.

Together with the bruising local elections results over the weekend, Labour are using the defections to paint a picture of a government that has lost the confidence of the public and its own MPs.

The prime minister was helpless.

He could only thank the councillors who lost their seats for their service as well as Andy Street, the Tory mayor who lost the West Midlands mayoral contest.


'Is PM in a hurry to get back to California?'

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hits back at Rishi Sunak's mention of the Angela Rayner police investigation, saying: "I think his record is played two, lost two."

Ms Rayner is being investigated about whether she broke electoral law over information she gave about her living situation a decade ago.

Turning to the local elections, Sir Keir says: "At least after Thursday night he can go to the many places that he calls home and enjoy the fruits of his success.

"In Southampton or Downing Street, he's got great Labour councils."

And in Richmond, Sir Keir says, he can "enjoy a brand-new Labour mayor of North Yorkshire".

He also refers to Sadiq Khan's victory in London.

The Labour leader asks if Mr Sunak is still in "such a hurry" to "get back to California".

In response, the prime minister says the people of North Yorkshire, where his constituency is, "believe in hard work, secure borders, lower taxes, and straight talking common sense".

He adds: "They're not going to get any of that from a virtue signalling mayor from north London".

Sir Keir hits back, describing Mr Sunak as a "dodgy salesman desperate to sell a dud".


Starmer asks if PM will 'take the hint' from election results

Sir Keir Starmer rises, beaming, and welcomes Natalie Elphicke - Labour's new Dover MP, who crossed the floor just moments ago after defecting from the Tories.

He also "warmly" welcomes the new Labour MP for Blackpool South, Chris Webb, who won a by-election there last week.

"It's good to know they've got a proper champion back at last," he adds, with the former Tory MP there having resigned after a lobbying scandal.

Sir Keir asks the prime minister what the point is of this "failed government" staggering on.

Rishi Sunak deflects the question, but Sir Keir comes back again.

"How many more times does the public and his own MPs need to reject him before he takes the hint?"

The prime minister says it's the general elections that count, not success in local votes.


Analysis: Defection will send shockwaves through Tory party

Our deputy political editor Sam Coates was just about to preview PMQs when news of Natalie Elphicke's defection broke.

The MP for Dover has switched from the Tories to Labour (see 12.01 post).

After the weekend the prime minister has had in the local elections, it's "incredibly bad news" for Rishi Sunak, says Sam.

Happening just seconds before PMQs began, he describes it as an "extraordinary development".

"No doubt Labour will be making the most of it," he adds.

"This will send absolute shockwaves through the Tory benches."


PMQs under way in House of Commons

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is on his feet in the House of Commons, as another weekly Prime Minister's Questions begins.

The PM begins by congratulating John Swinney on becoming the new leader of the SNP.

HIs first question relates to children vaping - and he outlines that the government has already done a lot to tackle it by restricting advertising rules.

Sir Keir is up shortly.

Politics latest: Tory MP defects to Labour - minutes before Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs (2024)


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