I’d like to tell you about a guy I know – let’s call him a friend – who went out with a girl – let’s call her Scarlet, the flame haired, sixth-form temptress – for two magical, passion-filled weeks in 1983, before she called time on their relationship, claiming it had run its course.

“You’re a great guy, eh thingy,” she told him, metaphorically reaching into his chest with her blackened claw, and callously ripping out his heart. “It’s just not going to work between us. It’s not you, it’s me. I guess I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment.”

The true cause of the break-up became obvious the following week, when he saw Scarlet, riding shotgun in his best friend’s newly acquired 1974 Ford Capri Mk 1 GXL.

I was reminded of this cautionary tale as I watched Natalie Elphicke cross the floor of the House of Commons last Wednesday, defecting from Conservative to Labour, at the start of Prime Minister’s Questions.

Rishi Sunak wore the same look of post-pubescent humiliation and betrayal that was etched across the face of poor old thingy all those years ago.


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Natalie Elphicke is not your run-of-the-mill politician. Where others see potentially career-ending scandal, humiliation and failure, Natalie sees only opportunity.

When her husband Charlie, whom she married in 1995, was accused of sexually assaulting two women, she stood by him dutifully, dismissing the allegations as fabricated, and motivated by political opportunists.

Elphicke was “attractive and attracted to women” she said of this pie-faced, grope-a-minute Torybot, “an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations.”

Only after he was convicted, did she decide that she should, not only divorce him, but also succeed him as MP for Dover. That’s one in the eye for his accusers.

There she berthed, as a loyal foot-stomper in the Sunak militia, pulsing her veins about small boats and other crucial, dog whistle issues, and she even appeared alongside her Eternal Leader at events…until last week.

I can imagine her holding the hand of the short-trousered one, telling him: “It’s not you, er thingy, it’s me. I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment.” All the time eyeing up Sir Keir Starmer’s souped-up Capri, with its low-profile tyres, go-faster stripes, and deafening exhaust baffle.

It’s that kind of principle, loyalty, and commitment... combined with hard-headed, what’s-in-it-for-me, run-for-the-exits-when-it-all-goes-pear-shaped pragmatism…that Labour needs right now to convince voters it can be trusted to stick to its guns, and do what’s best for the country.

The problem for Natalie Elphicke is that she is…how can I put this delicately…no spring chicken, and she will soon learn the hard way that her own estimation of her talents and value are not matched by her new employer.

She was hardly in the Labour fold two minutes before it was “clarified” by the leadership, that the party’s candidate at the forthcoming election for the seat which she currently holds, will not be her.

The problems for Labour – in welcoming an ambitious, ideological enemy with a history of poor judgement and capricious, self-interested behaviour – run potentially much deeper.

Sir Keir is said to have thought long and hard about admitting a personality who has been volubly to the right of the Conservative party on immigration and asylum.

The Herald: Tony BlairTony Blair (Image: free)

In the end, he decided her public defection was just too good an opportunity to pass up, because of the message it sends to Big C Conservatives in the party’s heartlands that, on this pivotal issue, one of their own believes he has the policies to deliver more than Mr Sunak.

However, despite the immediate publicity coup her defection generated, the story has continued to run in a generally negative direction for Labour.

At the weekend it was reported that Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, claimed Mrs Elphicke used a 2020 meeting to ask him to interfere in her husband's trial for sexual assault, by speaking to the judge. Labour said she "totally rejects that characterisation of the meeting".

On Monday, Mr Sunak said Sir Keir’s journey from embracing Jeremy Corbyn to embracing Natalie Elphicke, shows that he is “completely and utterly unprincipled”.

We have been here before with Labour leaders being prepared to tack to the right in order to broaden the party’s appeal beyond its traditional base, none more so than Tony Blair, who made a virtue of cosying-up to, mostly rich, natural Tory supporters.

In November 1997, it was revealed that Formula One motor racing boss Bernie Ecclestone had donated £1million to the Labour Party. The cash was returned following revelations that the government subsequently exempted Formula One from a proposed ban on tobacco sponsorship.

In February 2002, Blair wrote to Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, supporting the sale of Romanian steel group Sidex to London-based Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, who had donated £125,000 pounds to Labour the previous June.

Lord, then plain-old Peter, Mandelson was repeatedly brought back into government after a series of scandals, including supporting passport applications from Indian billionaires, the Hinduja brothers, shortly after they agreed to fund the ill-fated Millennium Dome, and failing to declare a £373,000 loan from ex-minister and millionaire Geoffrey Robinson to buy a house.

Then there was the 2006 “cash-for-honours” scandal, in which several Labour donors were nominated for life peerages by Blair, at the suggestion of Labour fundraiser Lord Levy, but were rejected by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Following a lengthy police investigation, in which Blair was interviewed as a witness, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring charges due to insufficient evidence, though the affair was thought to have weakened his position and possibly accelerated his resignation as Prime Minister. Compared with Blair’s rollcall of misjudgement, Sir Keir’s decision to admit Elphicke looks paltry, but media narratives always start with a single episode and Labour hasn’t even been elected yet.


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The Ecclestone affair, which marked the end of the Blair honeymoon, happened six months after New Labour took power.

I saw Scarlet in my local Lidl recently and the years hadn’t been kind to her. The fags, the booze, the sun, and the high cholesterol diet had, it seemed, all taken their toll.

She married thingy’s best friend, but things started to wrong almost immediately. The last straw came when the Capri broke down and she had to help him push it for a mile-and-a-half, dressed in her stonewashed denim jacket, ra-ra skirt and kitten heels.

It made me think how in life everything is temporary, more so in politics where you can become yesterday’s news in the blink of an eye.