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Starmer’s Strategic Defection Play: Capitalizing on Elphicke’s Move to Challenge Sunak on Immigration and Economy



Starmer capitalizes on Elphicke's switch to undermine Sunak during Dover trip

During his visit to Dover, Labour leader Keir Starmer leveraged Natalie Elphicke's party switch to challenge Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the issue of small boats, overshadowing Sunak's attempt to regain control of the narrative, according to Beth Rigby.

Political correspondent @BethRigby

Saturday, May 11, 2024, 3:

"I show no mercy."

During our journey to Dover last Friday, Sir Keir Starmer explained his reasons for admitting Natalie Elphicke into the Labour Party, coinciding with the presentation of his strategy to halt the influx of small boats.

Despite the uproar caused by her joining the Labour ranks this week, Sir Keir believed it was justified.

Politics live: Starmer outlines his strategy to address the issue of small boat crossings

He seized the opportunity to confront the migration issue head-on in Dover, standing alongside the current Labour MP, Ms. Elphicke, and declared to the press that Mr. Sunak had not managed to secure the borders and was not trustworthy.

The display was a masterclass in political maneuvering.

The timing was particularly harsh, coinciding with the day the UK emerged from a recession.

Rishi Sunak aimed for TV news headlines to focus on overcoming economic challenges and maintaining commitment to his strategy.

He received something different.

Rather than focusing on other issues, the leader of the Labour Party leveraged the Elphicke defection to criticize Rishi Sunak's handling of the small boats crisis, coinciding with the day the Prime Minister aimed to shift the focus back to economic matters.

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Starmer intensifies his criticism of the Rwanda 'gimmick'

Sir Keir clarified that his ruthlessness was not a goal on its own.

He told me, "I am determined to make sure we establish a Labour government that can transform this nation for the better."

"I am not driven by personal ambition or solely for the benefit of the Labour Party. My determination is for the good of the country."

"The key to transforming our nation lies in our determination to triumph in the upcoming general election and establish a government dedicated to public service, marking a significant shift in our political landscape."

Labeling the Rwanda plan as a "gimmick," Starmer took a stronger stance than previously during our Friday interview, stating that he would halt the flights immediately upon the inception of a Labour government.

He presented his strategy to establish a specialized "elite" Border Security Command, comprising MI5 agents, Border Force officers, police, expert investigators, and prosecutors dedicated to tackling criminal networks.

He asserted that this approach would more effectively discourage the practice, committing to significantly reduce the roughly 30,000 individuals who reached Britain by boat in 2023.

He additionally pledged to restore a "rules-based asylum system" where claims would be processed, leading to individuals either being sent back to their countries or granted asylum, while condemning the government for the significant backlog of unprocessed claims.

However, he acknowledged following his remarks that a Labour administration would face challenges in deporting the numerous migrants from Afghanistan or Syria, as there are no existing repatriation agreements with these conflict-ridden nations.

I pressed him for commitments: Could he pledge to reduce the number of crossings to the levels seen in 2020, when 8,500 individuals made the journey in small boats?

However, the Labour leader remained non-committal, stating to me, "I won't just throw out a random figure," while also criticizing Mr. Sunak's vow to 'stop the boats'.

"He plans to loosen our immigration controls"

Rishi Sunak expressed strong criticism, claiming that Starmer’s strategy amounted to "an amnesty for illegal migrants" and accused the Labour leader of lacking originality in his proposals.

He stated, "From what I understand, everything we're discussing now, including clearing the backlog and increasing law enforcement activity, is already underway."

"We made all those announcements over a year back.

Regarding unauthorized immigration, the approach is straightforward – he plans to abandon the Rwanda strategy and relax border controls.

"We have a strategy in place and we're ready to launch our aircraft."

Further reading: A recent defection and intervention highlight divisions within the Conservative Party. Police conduct raids on the residences of individuals slated for deportation to Rwanda.

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As of 2024, the number of individuals who have made the journey across the channel in small boats has reached 9,037, marking a 35% increase compared to the same period last year.

The Prime Minister has pledged to halt the arrival of boats and initiate flights to Rwanda within a matter of weeks.

The nation is split over the proposal, and doubts persist, as evidenced by an April YouGov survey. Results revealed an even divide between supporters and detractors of the plan, with a mere 23% of participants expressing confidence in its effectiveness, while 55% voiced skepticism, believing it will fail.

This demonstrates Starmer's self-assurance, as he attempts to restore Labour's standing on national security and law enforcement after the Corbyn era, and now believes he can challenge the Conservatives on this front.

His decision to align with a conservative figure known for contentious actions underscores his readiness to go to great lengths for victory.

The issue at hand is whether his strategy will prove more appealing to the electorate than that of the prime minister.

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