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Labour chair defends decision to admit Elphicke to party while Abbott is suspended

May 9, 2024

The Labour party’s chair has defended the decision to admit a staunchly rightwing MP while Diane Abbott has remained suspended and under investigation for more than a year.

Anneliese Dodds said she believed Elphicke was a good fit for Labour because her remarks on border security and housing were “absolutely fundamental to the Labour party”.

But she refused to “go into detail” about why Abbott’s complaint process had taken more than year while Elphicke had been allowed into the party.

Keir Starmer is under pressure after admitting Elphicke to his party on Wednesday, a decision that took Labour MPs and shadow cabinet ministers by surprise.

The move has been controversial among many female Labour MPs because of her defence of Charlie Elphicke, her then husband who was convicted of sexual assault in 2020.

Shortly after his conviction, Natalie Elphicke told the Sun he had been the victim of a “terrible miscarriage of justice” and cast doubt on his victims’ testimonies.

She said at the time: “Charlie is charming, wealthy, charismatic and successful – attractive, and attracted to, women. All things that in today’s climate made him an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations.”

In 2021 Elphicke became one of several MPs to be suspended from the Commons and told to apologise for being found to have tried to influence a judge presiding over Charlie Elphicke’s trial.

Questioned about her conduct, Dodds said “this was an incredibly serious case” and that Elphicke had been subjected to a “parliamentary process” – but declined to justify her remarks.


Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and former shadow minister for domestic violence, said she was “shocked” by the move and that Elphicke should apologise for her comments, which would have been “very painful” to victims.

“I didn’t believe it at first. It was a bit discombobulating,” Phillips said about Elphicke’s move to Labour on Wednesday night.

Asked about Elphicke’s defence of her then husband, Phillips told ITV’s Peston: “I think she needs to explain it and I think that there is some apologising to be done to victims of those crimes … I’m all for forgiveness but not without contrition.”

Dodds faced questions over how Elphicke could be admitted to the Labour party when Abbott had been waiting a year for the outcome of an investigation into comments she had made about racism.

in April 2023 after writing a letter to the Observer that said while Irish, Jewish and Traveller people “undoubtedly experience prejudice”, they do not face racism “all their lives”.

She withdrew her remarks the same day and apologised “for any anguish caused” but has been suspended from the Labour party since. She continues to sit as an independent MP.

Dodds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I have enormous respect for Diane Abbott, she was an absolute trailblazer, and of course we set out those proposals for a new race equality act some weeks ago when I was really privileged to have been able to discuss those with her.

“But, as I have said before, we have got a process, there is an independent one that does operate without fear or favour, and that is quite right. It is not one that is subject to political influence, nor indeed should it be.”

The branch of the GMB union that represents MPs’ staff said it had requested a meeting with Labour whips regarding the vetting of sitting MPs and candidates.

The branch chair, Jenny Symmons, described the decision to admit as “really, really poor and disappointing”.


Source: The Guardian

Image: MSN