Tory MP Natalie Elphicke has defected to Labour, hitting out at the “broken promises of Rishi Sunak’s tired and chaotic Government”.

The first time most of the Dover MP's former colleagues heard about her shock decision to cross the floor was just minutes before the start of Prime Minister’s Questions, when she sat down behind Sir Keir Starmer.

READ MORE: John Swinney sworn in as Scotland's seventh First Minister

In a statement, Ms Elphicke said the Tories had given up on the "centre ground of British politics." She also criticised Rishi Sunak for his role in the resignation of Boris Johnson. 

She said: "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 is the second Tory MP to defect to Labour in as many weeks. 

Dr Dan Poulter, the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, who works part-time as a mental health doctor in an NHS hospital, crossed the floor at the end of April.

Like Dr Poulter, Ms Elphicke will not stand at the looming general election.

Ms Elphicke is known for her strong views on immigration and has been critical of the UK Government for not doing enough to tackle the number of small boats arriving from France, many of which land in her constituency. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir asked Mr Sunak “what is the point of this failed Government staggering on” when “the Tory MP for Dover on the front line of small boats crisis says the Prime Minister cannot be trusted with our borders and joins Labour?”.

Sir Keir added: “In addition to losing two Tory MPs in two weeks, the Prime Minister has been on the receiving end of some of the biggest by-election swings in history.

“He’s also lost 1,500 Tory councillors, half of his party’s mayors and a leadership election to a lettuce. How many more times do the public and his own MPs need to reject him before he takes the hint?”

Mr Sunak replied: “This time last year I reminded him of some advice actually from his own mentor Tony Blair, who had said at the time, ‘he can be as cocky as he likes about local elections, but come a general election it’s policy that counts’.

“Now, one year on from that advice, what has he managed? £28 billion of tax rises, 70 new business regulations, 30 U-turns and a deputy leader under police investigation.”

READ MORE: Rural depopulation and short-term lets study 'surprising'

Ms Elphicke has previously been critical of Labour's immigration plans. 

Last year, writing in the Daily Express, she criticised Sir Keir Starmer for wanting to "rip up our world-leading partnership to remove illegal migrants to Rwanda."

"Labour has a choice. They can vote with the Government to stop the boats or they can vote against and defy the British people’s desire to control our borders.

"Will Keir Starmer be prepared to get tough or will Sir Softie strike again? As the number of small boats arriving on Kent’s beaches and ports continue to rise, my constituents, and our whole country, are watching carefully."

Ms Elphicke was elected in 2019, succeeding her husband, Charlie, who had the Tory whip removed after he was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with three counts of sexual assault against two women.

He was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison

Ms Elphicke was criticised for attacking the two women after Mr Elphicke's conviction.

She claimed Charlie was “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," she said.

She was suspended from the Commons in 2021 for "attempting to improperly influence judicial proceedings" in her ex-husband's trial.

The Standards Committee said the MPs had still sought to influence the outcome of the hearing and “risked giving the impression that elected politicians can bring influence to bear on the judiciary, out of public view and in a way not open to others”.

It added: “Such egregious behaviour is corrosive to the rule of law and, if allowed to continue unchecked, could undermine public trust in the independence of judges.”

Ms Elphicke was also panned in 2021 when she accused Marcus Rashford of spending more time "playing politics" than "perfecting his game," after he missed a crucial spot kick in the heart-breaking Euro 2020 defeat to Italy.

She was later forced to apologise for the message. 

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said the Labour party needed to "show some standards."