I’m too left wing for Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour, jokes Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt joked she is “too left wing” for Labour, as she insisted Tory hopes of retaining Dover were “slightly improved” by Natalie Elphicke’s defection.

The Commons Leader said it was a “personal tragedy” for Ms Elphicke to switch from the Government benches to Labour just moments before Prime Minister’s Questions, although she claimed it also exposed a “pattern of behaviour” from Sir Keir Starmer.

She compared the Labour leader to a crab that selects “sedentary creatures and seaweed” to help “disguise its true form”, as she accused him of running “Operation Radish” in a bid to appear “red on the outside” to voters.

Ms Mordaunt later joked: “I am not about to defect to the opposition benches. They wouldn’t be interested in me, I’m too left wing.”

Shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell had earlier welcomed Chris Webb to the Labour benches following his by-election victory in Blackpool South before welcoming the two Tory defectors, which also included former minister Dr Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich).

To laughter, she said: “Our reach into previously undiscovered support is really much broader and deeper than I ever imagined.”

Ms Powell said she understood Tory MPs had been given a briefing about “how they didn’t really lose the local elections after all”, adding: “Perhaps we could have a debate on what the local election results are telling us; it might help inject a bit of reality into their thinking because you can’t cure something if you’re in complete denial about it.”

The Labour frontbencher said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has his “fingers in his ears” and is “ploughing on as if everything is fine”, telling MPs: “People are crying out for change.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with former Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with former Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ms Mordaunt, in a nod to criticism among the Labour movement over Ms Elphicke’s defection, said: “I do hope the honourable member for Dover is being made to feel very welcome indeed in her new party.

“Whilst I’m buoyed up at the news that our odds on retaining Dover have actually slightly improved since yesterday – true – I think it is a personal tragedy for the honourable lady for Dover, as it was for the honourable member for Central Suffolk last week.

“But what it has exposed is a pattern of behaviour from the leader of the Opposition. It is a shame we are not due an update to Peter Brookes’ Nature Notes, for the decorator crab is a species which covers its surface area with materials to disguise its true form, usually selecting sedentary creatures and seaweed.

“The leader of the Opposition is the decorator crab of these benches, desperate to show that he’s not really leading the Labour Party at all.

“He’s channelled Margaret Thatcher, his deputy has praised Boris (Johnson), he’s expelled the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) with great fanfare – a man he was campaigning to be prime minister only moments before.

“His exterior shell is stuck over with St George’s flags, his Gunners season ticket and several programmes from the Last Night of the Proms. What next: a photo op with a bulldog? A lecture on how misunderstood Enoch Powell was? Should I ask the whip on duty on the front bench if he has checked in recently with the honourable member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mark Francois)?

“This is Operation Radish: the concerted effort to convince the British public that while the Labour Party might look red on the outside, at its heart it isn’t really at all.

“However, even the defection from our benches of one Labour’s most sternest critics cannot disguise the fact that Operation Radish is not going well.”

Ms Mordaunt said newly-elected Labour mayors had opted to raise issues connected to Israel and Gaza rather than local matters, adding: “The politics of the PLP (parliamentary Labour Party) is more the politics of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation)”.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –