Starmer's packing his bags for an expedition across the Channel, and who will replace Mr Ellwood as he bids adieu to his fellow Defence Select Committee members? Read the latest edition of Who's Top, Who's Not:
Flying hIgh: Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer, the man with a penchant for turning political jabs into one-liners, is packing his bags and heading across the channel after giving Rishi Sunak a good ol' tongue-lashing at PMQs.
Dubbing Sunak "inaction man" Starmer unleashed a list of problems in probation services, prisons, schools, and the government's approach to China. Ouch! Labour even managed a last-minute hijack of Tory attempts to water down river pollution rules in the House of Lords.
Starmer now embarks on an international tour to garner global support for his immigration plans, which he has set out this week, expected to include meetings with Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau. Starmer has insisted that he would seek an EU-wide returns agreement for asylum seekers who come to Britain, vowing to “smash the gangs” behind small boat crossings.
Keen to burnish his credentials on the world stage as a Prime Minister in waiting, Starmer’s meeting with the French President would be his first public meeting with a major foreign leader. It's like a first date with the whole world watching!
Whilst it’s not entirely unusual for an opposition leader to be having liaisons of this kind, the significance of this blooming bromance has been reaffirmed by the fact that the visit is taking place against Macron’s usual protocol. The French President tends to only receive opposition leaders from the “same political family,” according to a French source, a rule which would normally exclude the leader of the British Labour party. but this time, he's making an exception. Why? Well, because there's a looming election, of course!
News of this meeting will no doubt irk some Conservatives. However, the challenge for Starmer remains to ensure he is shown to be a fit alternative PM-in-waiting, whilst also making sure he does not appear too presumptive.
Middle of the road: Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman, the Home Office Secretary, has had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster, making headlines with the Bibby Stockholm barge and increased undocumented channel crossings. But this week, she might have just hit the jackpot!
Allies of the Home Secretary believe she has won a victory in cabinet after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt appeared to rule out handing out more work visas to India in exchange for a trade deal. During the Summer, it appeared that the UK was prepared to grant more visas to land the historic trade deal with one of the fast-growing major economies. But with the Chancellor joining finance ministers in India, it appears that the UK will now not budge on the issue, with Hunt stating it was “difficult to imagine how much more we could give on that front”.
Braverman had been described as “a lone voice” in the Cabinet opposing more migration, but one Tory MP has suggested that the Chancellor’s comments show Braverman was winning the argument, with Hunt conceding defeat.
But the Home Sec shouldn’t celebrate too early because her Rwanda policy is still up in the air following a ruling that it was unlawful. It’s now been reported that the first deportation flight to Rwanda won’t leave until at least December as the Supreme Court does not return to assess the scheme’s legality until October. But that in itself could serve Braverman’s political purposes as she can frame it as her being thwarted once again by pesky lawyers and the establishment blob!
Slowly sinking: Tobias Ellwood
Tobias Ellwood, oh boy, he definitely takes the low spot this week! He's going straight to the bottom of WTWN as after more than three years as the Chair of the Defence Select Committee, he's decided to bid adieu.
Why, you ask? Well, it seems that he is now facing the repercussions from his now infamous video in July in which he declared that Afghanistan under the Taliban has become a “country transformed”. With a no confidence vote in his chairmanship set to take place ten sitting days after summer recess, it seems Ellwood has spared himself the humiliation of being the first elected select committee chair to ever be defeated in such a vote.
With one source fuming “it’s not the first time he’s done this. Every few weeks, he does something as ‘Chair of the Defence Select Committee’ then apologies, then does it again”, his luck has finally run out. All eyes now turn to the formal contest to replace Mr Ellwood, A perfect opening for a Tory big beast keen to hold the government’s feet to the fire on Ukraine and defence cuts…