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With a new MP for Chester, an eye-catching Labour attack policy, and an SNP bun-fight, Whitehouse Communications sets out Who's Top Who's Not in Westminster this week.

Flying High: Samantha Dixon

The City of Chester has a new Labour MP following yesterday’s by-election which was won comfortably by Samantha Dixon with a 10,974 majority, and a 61% vote share.

The result itself is unsurprising – the seat was Labour held, it has a university, and sitting governments usually get pummeled at by-elections. History shows that one can read too much into by-election results as arbiters of future general election success, but the scale of this victory does seem to reflect current national polling of Labour and the Conservatives.

The concern for the Tories is that it is difficult to see how things will improve for them with the cost of living set to bite for a long while yet. Unless they make real progress in easing this crisis, then Samantha Dixon won’t be the only new Labour MP entering Westminster before too long.

Middle ranking: Rishi Sunak

Old Wykehamist Rishi Sunak has come under attack this week with Labour trying to corner him into supporting taxpayer subsidies for public schools. Kier Starmer used PMQs to promote Labour’s policy (actually first announced last year) that it would introduce VAT on private school fees.

By picking this particular fight, Labour has also re-agitated the traditional Tory-supporting press (that has recently been slightly less rabid towards Sir Kier) and gained additional coverage for what it believes is a compelling and popular policy.

The policy itself doesn’t raise a huge amount of money (relatively speaking) but it is an opportunity for Labour to create an economic wedge issue and to paint Sunak as being out of touch with struggling families who can barely imagine paying for their children’s education, let alone during a cost-of-living crisis.

Isolated, the public school VAT policy is insufficient for Labour’s economic programme. But if it can continue to be used to attack Sunak for being out of touch with struggling working people, then Labour could end up top of the class. But if it is seen as a form of class war and part of a general narrative of more Labour taxes, then Starmer will be sent back to school.

Sinking quickly: Ian Blackford

Westminster has seen its fair share of coups and political takedowns in recent weeks but this one takes the shortbread. PMQs will be a very different beast without the rumbustious Ian Blackford - who never opts for a single word when a lengthy soliloquy will do - following his political defenestration this week.

The SNP’s Westminster contingent have been an unhappy bunch for some time, not helped by last week’s supreme court ruling leaving the hardcore pro-referendumites increasingly frustrated. Stephen Flynn is expected to take over after he agitated for the role a few weeks ago but things rarely run smooth when it comes to Westminster power plays…