Rishi Sunak snubs Greek PM in dispute over 2,500-year-old Elgin Marbles

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Good morning. The story turning heads and driving conversation in Westminster today is Rishi Sunak’s snub of his Greek opposite number in a dispute over the future home of the Elgin Marbles. Is it a fit of pique because Kyriakos Mitsotakis met Keir Starmer first? That’s what some Tory MPs think. A clever ploy to attack Labour over Starmer’s willingness to let the British Museum return the 2,500-year-old carvings? That’s another theory doing the rounds.

I’m on Team “I think this may actually just reflect Rishi Sunak’s own personal feelings about the Marbles” frankly. The big things that are going to shape the next election are the economy, the NHS and immigration. There is a reason why those policy areas are all part of Sunak’s five pledges — but now his pledges on immigration threaten his pledges on health. Some further thoughts on that below.

Inside Politics is edited by Leah Quinn today. Read the previous edition of the newsletter here. Please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to

A bit of good news for Rishi

In what is the best piece of news for Rishi Sunak in a long time, the BMA has recommended to striking consultants that they accept the government’s latest pay offer.

Ending the strikes in the NHS is a vital part of bringing down NHS waiting lists, which is a vital part of improving outcomes in the NHS, which is a vital part of making people feel the UK isn’t in a state of crisis, which is vital to the Conservative party’s election hopes. So: a positive day all round.

Of course, the government is some way away from being able to say Rishi Sunak has kept his pledge to reduce NHS waiting lists with a straight face. The biggest political gamble that Jeremy Hunt made in the autumn statement was not making extra money available for the health service, and there’s a risk that a winter crisis over the next few months might deepen the government’s problems.

More importantly, there is, inevitably, a conflict between the government’s desire to reduce the number of people coming to the UK to work and its ambitions for UK healthcare, particularly in social care. Delphine Strauss has written a brilliant piece about some of the individuals affected, but the big picture, politically speaking, is this: there isn’t a way the government can keep its promises to voters on immigration without reversing some of the things it is doing to try and turn around the UK’s flagging healthcare system.

In terms of what his government does, Sunak has chosen to focus on fixing healthcare first and worrying about his immigration target second. But in terms of his rhetoric and that of his party, no such clarity exists and rows over migration and the health service will almost certainly be a running sore from now until the election.

Now try this

This week, I mostly listened to Laura Misch’s wonderful new record Sample the Sky while writing my column.

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