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This morning's news of by-election success will be music to Keir's ears after a tough week. Two new MPs will be welcomed to Westminster for now...

Flying High : Gen Kitchen and Damien Egan

Congratulations to our newest MPs Gen Kitchen and Damien Egan, following their by-election wins in Wellingborough and Kingswood yesterday.

Both will now represent constituencies previously regarded as very safe Conservative seats. The results mean Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives will now have the dishonour of a new party record for the most by-election losses in a single parliament (10).

Yesterday’s poll in Kingswood in particular will make Jacob Rees-Mogg sweat, as the Bristol suburban seat will be incorporated into three other constituencies at the next general election; one of which is currently held by Rees-Mogg, who joins a long list of prominent Tories under threat.

While they celebrate their election success, Kitchen and Egan will not be able to get too comfortable as they will be back on the campaign trail sooner rather than later, and both seats will be much more competitive in a general election rather than a by-election.

Middle ranking: Jeremy Hunt

The Chancellor had a big week as fresh figures from the ONS were released on both inflation and GDP.

The stalling of inflation was a surprise, as many experts were predicting a small rise. The current rate of 4% is still double the Bank of England’s target but the Chancellor claims that forecasts indicate they will reach the target in a matter of months.

A day later, news of the UK falling into a recession hit the headlines. Q4 of 2023 was the second successive shrinking quarter for the UK economy, and news of a recession is as bad as it gets for the Treasury. It is also a major hit on Sunak’s priority to grow the economy, one of his five pledges which are crumbling around him.

The Chancellor insisted that the economy is turning a corner, and that growth was expected to be slow whilst focus was on tackling inflation. However, while Hunt dismissed the news of a technical recession, Labour attacked him and the Tories for being ‘out of touch’, and for 14 years of economic mismanagement.

Hunt has largely been able to spin his way through the storm this week, but eyes will stay on him for now in the lead up to the Spring Budget on the 6th of March when the public, the media and his own MPs will be expecting better economic news.

Sinking Quickly: Keir Starmer

While it seems only a minor miracle could keep the Labour leader out of number 10 at the upcoming election, this week was arguably the worst one yet for Starmer as party leader.

Labour have withdrawn support for as many parliamentary candidates as won election this week, as Azhar Ali and Graham Jones were both suspended for anti-Israel comments. ‘Labour has changed’ has been Sir Keir’s message of 2024 so far, but fresh incidents of anti-Semitism have given Rishi Sunak licence to say that it hasn’t. Meanwhile the incidents highlight Labour’s uncomfortable and sensitive dilemma between retaining the support of four million British-Muslims, and standing by Israel and against anti-Semitism.

Following his U-turn on green investment last week, questions are being asked about the political judgement of the Labour leader. Next week also looks tricky with the SNP likely to force another uncomfortable vote on an immediate Gaza ceasefire that is sure to sow division in the Labour ranks.

Much of Labour’s recent success has come from demonstrating how it has changed from under Corbyn – morally, politically, economically and on competence. Much of this has been achieved from a mixture of big gestures and consistent action. Starmer will be hoping that this week doesn’t lead to any backsliding in the polls in this most crucial of electoral years.