MPs start back at Westminster today after the end of the summer recess, and both Keir Starmer and Stephen Flynn are marking the occasion with a reshuffle of their front bench teams.

In some ways, a reshuffle has been forced upon the SNP Westminster leader after so many prominent SNP MPs announced that they'd be standing down at the next General Election – some to retire due to age or sheer exhaustion.

Keir Starmer's reshuffle is far more in the classic mould of a party leader seeking to assert his own authority – and marginalise or sideline any potential opposition.

READ MORE: MP quits Labour shadow cabinet with swipe at Keir Starmer

As the party gears up to face the Tories in the next General Election, Starmer has promoted his allies and supporters to key positions, thus ensuring he will face no internal opposition should he get himself into Downing Street.

Just look at his new shadow work and pensions secretary.

Coming from the right of the party, Liz Kendall is on record as backing "welfare reform", supporting the benefit cap, and calling for EU migrants' benefits to be cut.

Keir Starmer takes aim at society's poorest

It's increasingly clear that Starmer's plan to take on the Conservatives entails transforming Labour into their mirror image. The exact same policies, just without the rank incompetence, sleaze, and performative cruelty.

Starmer has taken the Labour party so far to the right that last week a veteran US Republican senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, praised Labour's policies as "Reaganesque”. Throughout his long career, Grassley has consistently opposed tax increases and has supported cuts to government spending on social programmes to benefit the poorest.

Grassley made his comments after Labour confirmed that if it forms the next government it will not increase taxes on the wealthiest or remove the two-child cap on social security payments. Labour consistently claims that there is no money – even as it refuses to increase taxes on those who are already obscenely wealthy.

The National: Labour leader Keir Starmer pictured at the party's conference in Liverpool last year

However, there is still apparently money for British nationalist military pretensions, ticking two jingoistic boxes in one go in an article in the Mirror newspaper on Monday, Starmer (above) vowed to use British steel to build British warships.

There was a time when the main selling point of the Labour party, after a long and brutal period of Conservative rule, was a promise to make slight adjustments to the size and weight of the boot stamping down on the necks of the low paid, social security claimants, the poor, the marginalised, and the vulnerable.

However, what we are getting with Keir Starmer is a Labour party that's saying the boot is just fine. It's the poor and the low paid who are the problem.

In the land of the true blue Conservatives

Meanwhile Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's authority over his party is crumbling away like aerated concrete.

Sunak has been forced to deny claims that he bears a large part of the responsibility for the crisis assailing schools and other public buildings constructed with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a popular building material from the 1960s to the 1990s which is now reaching the end of its life, putting buildings at risk of structural failure.

In an interview with the BBC on Monday morning, Jonathan Slater, a former permanent secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), claimed that while he was chancellor, Sunak halved funding for school building repairs despite being warned by the Department of Education that new schools would have to be built because of the risk to life posed by the weak concrete.

READ MORE: Scotland praised for 'leading charge' as SNP 'to bring in four-day work week'

Slater said that in 2021 the DfE asked the Treasury for funding to replace 200 schools a year – and that his department thought that between 300 and 400 schools would have to be replaced. However the actual decision made by the Chancellor in 2021 was to halve the funding from 100 schools a year to just 50.

Labour's education spokesperson Bridget Phillipson said: "Rishi Sunak bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle: he doubled down on Michael Gove's decision to axe Labour's schools rebuilding programme and now the chickens have come home to roost – with yet more disruption to children's education."

The reality is that the Conservatives had the perfect opportunity to carry out much needed repairs to schools during the Covid pandemic due to lockdown. The work could have been carried out with no additional disruption to children's education. But the Tories did nothing.

The real victim in all this

Meanwhile Conservative education secretary Gillian Keegan has made an expletive laden and self pitying intervention into the RAAC crisis, being recorded by ITV News complaining that she has not been awarded due credit for her handling of the issue.

In the comments, seemingly recorded while Keegan thought the microphone was no longer live, the top Tory complained: "Does anyone ever say, 'you know what, you've done a f***ing good job because everyone else has sat on their a**e and done nothing’. No, no signs of that?”

Gillian Keegan, the real victim here.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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