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Tories Are Divided Over Whether Rishi Sunak Is “Finished” Ahead Of Rwanda Vote


3 min read

Conservative MPs are split between believing Rwanda is the Government's only option to "stop the boats", and thinking the Prime Minister is “finished” ahead of Rishi Sunak's crunch vote on his emergency legislation to cut illegal migration.

On Tuesday MPs will vote on emergency legislation intended to declare Rwanda as a safe country in order to prevent further legal challenges to the government's stalled policy to process asylum seekers offshore.

The vote is a critical test of Sunak's authority, having made “stop the boats” one of his central pledges. Downing Street is not treating it as a confidence vote.

The cost of the policy has continued to soar. So far, the UK has given the Rwandan Government £140 million, which is equal to almost two per cent of the country's GDP, according to the Economist.

But Charles Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne, told PoliticsHome he believed this sum should be tested against the hotel bill which is footed by the taxpayer. The Government spends £8million per day on housing asylum seekers in the UK. 

“It’s a fraction," he said. “There is a broader issue than just stopping people coming into the country. The fact of the matter is, is that we really are now struggling to accommodate people.”

The senior Tory MP felt there was no better option at the moment than to press ahead with the Rwanda policy as he felt public "patience" on stopping illegal migration was being severely tested, and the Government needed to act and get the numbers down in a "humane" and "compassionate" way. 

“It’s not as if we haven’t been given good warning by our populations that their patience is beginning to be exhausted by this," he added.

A number of Conservative MPs on the Right of the Party are increasingly frustrated that the legislation has not been implemented and has been hit by a series of delays. 

Last month the Supreme Court found the Government's original Rwanda policy to be unlawful, which prevented Sunak from implementing it. 

One Tory MP told PoliticsHome many Conservative colleagues were unhappy with how the Prime Minister had dealt with Rwanda policy. They believed reducing illegal migration should have been sorted out last year.

“[Sunak's] not a capable enough politician. He’s very inexperienced. He’s a nice [person] and he’s worked hard… but he hasn’t been bright enough,” they said.

Another Tory MP told PoliticsHome they believed the Prime Minister was “finished” after a “very odd press conference” yesterday.

“He is Letting Rwanda dictate the UK immigration policy it seems. It is clear he has no mandate and knows it. He should call an election or [leave],” they said. 

One former cabinet minister was concerned the Government had focused too much on illegal migration. They were looking for a more ambitious offer from the Government on kickstarting economic growth and cutting taxes for businesses which could help them win their seat at the next election.

The Prime Minister has been under intense pressure after Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, resigned after he believed the Government’s emergency legislation did not go “far enough”.

One minister was critical of Jenrick’s behaviour and told PoliticsHome they believed he was “always an odd choice” for a ministerial position in the Home Office.

To date influential groups, from both the Right and Left of the Conservative Party, have not yet said whether they will back the forthcoming legislation.

The European Research Group (ERG), best known for repeatedly obstructing Theresa May's Brexit legislation, have issued a similar line. Reducing migration is a key priority for the ERG.

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