KEIR Starmer has said he is “delighted” to welcome former Tory MP Natalie Elphicke into the Labour Party.

The Labour leader claimed Elphicke has a “strong track record” on issues such as housing and is on the “frontline” when it comes to the so-called small boats crisis.

“And the reason that she’s given for joining the Labour Party is very, very important because I think she speaks for very many Tory voters,” Starmer said.

“In saying that the Tory party has changed, it’s left the centre ground. But equally the Labour Party has changed and we are pretty clearly the party of the national interest, of country first, party second.”

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He added: “And I look forward to working with her on the mission to deliver the real change that this country desperately needs.”

The defection has angered Elphicke’s former party, with Downing Street pointing out her recent attacks on Labour immigration policies.

Others, meanwhile, have expressed shock at the fact she was welcomed to Labour given she has been considered to be from the hard-right wing of the Tory party.

Elphicke was also previously suspended from the Commons for one day for trying to influence the judge in a case linked to her former partner Charlie Elphicke, who was found guilty on multiple counts of sexual assault.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn (below) told the Labour Party to “show some standards”.

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Elphicke, who is standing down at the General Election, denied that she had been offered a peerage by Labour.

She said: “What I’ve said that I will do and what I’ve been asked to do is to contribute in the area of housing, which has been a longstanding area of experience for me.

“It’s absolutely vital that we build the homes the country needs because under Rishi Sunak we’ve seen housebuilding simply collapse in this last year. Going forward, it looks like it’ll be another missed manifesto promise from the Conservatives – not 300,000 homes, but probably half of that number.

“So, I’m really pleased to be able to join the Labour Party, Labour has changed and it will be building the homes our country needs.”