Starmer jokes Labour is 'last party' Farage would want to join amid defections speculation

Sir Keir Starmer did not quite rule out allowing Nigel Farage into Labour. Credit: PA

Sir Keir Starmer did not quite rule out allowing Nigel Farage into Labour - but joked his party was likely the last one the ex-Brexit Party leader would want to join.

The opposition leader said politics should be “less tribal” and suggested he was open to “reasonably-minded people” from other parties joining Labour, as he welcomed Tory defector Natalie Elphicke. Ms Elphicke joined Sir Keir in Dover, her constituency, to launch the Labour Party’s plans to tackle people-smuggling gangs bringing migrants across the Channel in small boats. He said he wanted his party to be a place that “reasonably-minded people, whichever way they voted in the past” feel they can join.

Asked by ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana where he would draw the line with right-wing politicians and whether he would welcome Mr Farage into Labour, he said “a list of names doesn’t help anyone but Nigel Farage wouldn’t want to join Labour”.

“It is an invitation that we should be less tribal in the pursuit of a better country and invite people to our party who want to join in our object of national renewal,” Sir Keir said.

He added that he wanted to “bring as many people with us as possible”.

Labour MPs have criticised the decision to admit Ms Elphicke to the party, citing her hardline views on immigration and her previous defence of her ex-husband after he was found guilty of sexual assaulting two women.

Ms Elphicke apologised to her ex-husband's victims on Thursday after facing backlash from her new colleagues - but she also once attacked England footballer Marcus Rashford while he was campaigning against the government's plans to scrap kids' free school meals.

'Lots of people in politics have said a lot of things,' Sir Keir Starmer tells Anushka Asthana when asked about Natalie Elphicke's comments on Marcus Rashford campaigning for free school meals.

At a time when he was facing a torrent of racist abuse, Ms Elphicke suggested he should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time on politics after England lost in the European Championship when he missed a penalty.

Asked by Anushka Asthana if he wanted her to apologise for that also, Sir Keir said: "Look, you know, lots of people in politics have said a lot of things, but she's been really clear about why she wants to and has crossed the floor from the Tory government to the Labour Party."

When asked if all was forgiven, he said: "She's clear that they're out of road, out of steam, incompetent, let down the country when it comes to control of our borders and that the Labour Party is the place that she sees for the future of the country."

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting had told the Independent he thought Ms Elphicke and Dan Poulter, who left the Tories last month, had “defected with a purpose”, in Dr Poulter’s case because of concern about the NHS, and in Ms Elphicke’s due to the Conservative Party’s immigration policy. Mr Streeting claimed he has spoken to more Tory MPs considering a move because of the “division and incompetence” of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Government - but drew the line at Liz Truss saying he'd "rather have lettuce join".

Asked if he was concerned about the backlash from within the Labour Party to Ms Elphicke’s defection, Starmer said on Friday that she had set out the reasons for this “very important and significant” defection. He said: “It’s a Conservative Party that is on its last legs, it’s out of road, out of ideas, and that is why I genuinely think the mood of the country, and Natalie has picked up on this, is for change and a general election.” No-one can understand why Mr Sunak is “clinging on by his fingernails” to power, he said. Ms Elphicke, the MP for Dover, joined Sir Keir to launch Labour’s policy and said a “fresh approach” is needed to halt small boat crossings. Announcing her decision to switch parties, Ms Elphicke hit out at Mr Sunak’s “tired and chaotic government” and accused him of failing to deliver on his promise to “stop the boats”, adding that Labour would “bring a much better future for our country”. Downing Street has pointed out her repeated attacks on Labour’s immigration policy while former prime minister Lord Cameron said her defection showed the opposition stood for nothing.

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