Jess Phillips has revealed that seeing Natalie Elphicke cross the floor to join the Labour Party felt “a bit like being punched in the gut” given the former Conservative MP’s “victim blaming” after her ex-husband and former MP Charlie Elphike was convicted of sexual assault.

The former shadow minister for domestic violence told our Electoral Dysfunction podcast that the leadership should have handled the defection of Ms Elphickle “in a way that was slightly more sensitive to those of us who speak up on these particular issues”, as the MP for Birmingham Yardley hinted at the private anger and upset among Labour MPs over the shock arrival of Ms Elphicke, a Tory rightwinger who was a member of the Brexiteer ERG group and New Conservatives caucuses.

“I expressed my view quite clearly,” says Jess, as the backlash built last night, culminating in Ms Elphicke putting out a statement on Thursday, which I understand was driven by Sir Keir Starmer’s office, apologising to the victims of her ex-husband.

Ms Elphicke, who took the Dover & Deal seat uncontested after her now ex-husband Charlie Elphicke, was convicted of sexual assault, had defended him and said his conviction had been a “terrible miscarriage of justice” as she described Mr Elphicke as an “easy target”.

On Thursday, she released a statement apologising about the comments she had made about victims.

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She said: “The period of 2017 – 2020 was an incredibly stressful and difficult one for me as I learned more about the person I thought I knew. I know it was far harder for the women who had to relive their experiences and give evidence against him.

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“I have previously, and do, condemn his behaviour towards other women and towards me. It was right that he was prosecuted and I’m sorry for the comments that I made about his victims.

“It is vital that women can have confidence in the criminal justice system and our rates of prosecution and conviction are far too low as a country.

“Keir Starmer’s mission to halve male violence against women and girls is critical and I wanted to take the opportunity to express my explicit support for Labour colleagues working to realise it.”

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Defecting Tory hits out at Conservatives

I understand that she had privately expressed these views to Sir Keir Starmer when discussing joining Labour, and that the party had made these public amid the backlash the Labour leader was facing in light of her defection.

The Labour leader has made tackling violence against women and girls a key election pledge.

Jess says the apology was “an absolute start, but is also a bare minimum”.

“I’m going to give her a chance to talk to me personally. There is a part of that statement about abuse and harm that he caused to her as well.

“I’m not saying that to excuse her. I am saying that because I think that she provides us with a lesson of how we could actually prevent this going forward and have some sort of cultural shift. So I don’t excuse her and I will give her, like I would with any woman, I will give her a fair chance.”

Read more:
Tory MP Natalie Elphicke defects to Labour Party
Labour insists no place for Nigel Farage in party after defection of right-wing MP

Ruth Davidson, meanwhile, says the defection, coupled with those terrible local elections, means the PM is “tripping into beleaguered territory”.

“By the time this election comes in November or whenever it is. I mean, we could be beleaguered, we could be in the rear-view mirror by then. I mean, it could be falling apart by that point… I mean apocalyptic.”

A dysfunctional week all around, one way or another.