Tory Defector Casts Key Vote to Ban MPs Accused of Sex Assault

(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak’s government suffered a defeat by a single vote late Monday on a motion concerning bans for Members of Parliament accused of violent or sexual offenses, after Natalie Elphicke, who last week defected to the Labour Party from the prime minister’s Conservatives, sided with the opposition.

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Sunak’s government had proposed a motion that could see MPs barred from Westminster only if charged with violent or sexual offenses; but it was defeated by 170 votes to 169 on an opposition amendment that lowered the threshold to when a lawmaker is arrested — even if they haven’t yet been charged.

The outcome may help Elphicke win favor with her new Labour colleagues, many of whom were baffled by the defection of a right-wing Conservative to their party, as well as by their leader, Keir Starmer’s decision to accept her. A serial critic of Labour in the past, Elphicke had attracted criticism herself for her controversial support for her husband Charlie Elphicke, a former Tory MP who was convicted of sexual assault in 2020. She apologized last week for defending him.

The defeat came despite Sunak’s Tories having a working majority of 45 — down from 80 in 2019 after a string of by-election defeats, defections and suspensions. While that’s in part a reflection of the government’s increased vulnerability, it’s also because the ruling party didn’t whip the vote, meaning Tory MPs could vote with their conscience on the issue. In the event, 166 of them didn’t vote at all, while 8 — including former Prime Minister Theresa May — sided with the opposition parties.

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