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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.

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Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

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Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

One crypto lawyer thinks a Donald Trump election win would revert some SEC crypto lawsuits, but others note he hasn’t always kept campaign promises.

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Sunak’s Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

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Sunak's Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

Suddenly, at election time, political predictions become so much harder and riskier. Everything changes in a campaign, not least the news cycle.

That’s my excuse, at any rate, for failing to foresee the announcement of a general election in last week’s Politics at Jack and Sam’s.

There were a few clues – and one magisterial tweet from Financial Times journalist Lucy Fisher – but we were deaf to the signals.

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Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the plane on their way to Staffordshire, Britain May 24, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/Pool via REUTERS
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Pic: Reuters

In this week’s Politics At Jack and Sam’s podcast, we reflect how this Number 10 – in big contrast to the last two – is much better at keeping secrets.

But the moment an election is called, the way information gets out alters and everything becomes trickier.

Follow live – general election latest:
Tories attack Starmer’s ‘stamina’ as PM shuns team to campaign

Normally political news emerges in so many different ways. There’s parliament. Government announcements. Questions, written and oral. MPs themselves, including ministers, wandering the corridors of the Commons where journalists can go stopping for a gossip.

All of that disappears at election time. Keeping things secret from the other side matters a lot more, while decisions and information is held by a much tighter group of people.

That’s why it’s not really feasible to do a weekly look ahead political podcast – and we’re responding by going daily. More details to follow.

Rishi Sunak‘s allies are quite upfront that the timing of the general election was a finely balanced argument and you can make a case both ways.

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Sunak defends wet election announcement

One of the big things that motivated Sunak to go now was that he was doing – in his view – big things; welfare announcements, defence spending commitments, NHS workforce plan.

But they found people weren’t listening and the polls weren’t moving. They weren’t “getting a hearing”. Which they put down to people being switched off from politics and apathy being high – and so the decision to call an election was motivated by that.

The other big consideration was that from around March, early April they were getting internal economic indicators, suggesting the economic conditions – things like inflation, interest rates – might be favourable sufficiently such that they could base a campaign around.

Fascinatingly, they say there wasn’t a “decision” meeting two months ago or even three weeks ago – the move was more like the tide coming in slowly.

Although Labour were caught on the hop – some staff had booked leave, were privately confident there was nothing coming this summer and the Labour campaign bus is not yet ready – candidates claim to be pretty happy with what’s happened so far.

However, the biggest challenge of the next five weeks will be seeing whether they can respond to the pressure of a campaign, and the relentless desire for more of everything.

Currently the narrative is that Sunak had a miserable start – in a few weeks, pictures of the PM in the rain could be a plucky fighter battling against the odds.

This feels unlikely right now, but having been through the 2017 campaign, we know anything can happen.

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Trump promises to release Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected

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Trump promises to release Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected

Former United States President Donald Trump vows to free Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if re-elected.

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