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Unspoken Tension Mounts In Conservative Party Over Rishi Sunak's Rwanda Plans


4 min read

There is “unspoken tension” and a desire for “realism” among Conservative MPs over the government’s plans to stop small boats, with MPs still waiting for detail on emergency legislation promised by Rishi Sunak.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister promised a new treaty with Rwanda, as well as taking “the extraordinary step of introducing emergency legislation” to “end the merry go round” and stop the plans to forcibly deport migrants to the east African country being blocked by legal challenges, after the Supreme Court ruled that the plans were unlawful. 

The divisions over Rwanda have threatened to reawaken old rows within the Tory Party, with the Prime Minister coming under pressure from the right of his party, while many take a more pragmatic view on making promises that will be achievable. 

A former cabinet minister told PoliticsHome that they “want to see some realism” and described Sunak as “where the problem is”. 

“He went out there saying he would stop the boats. I am ever hopeful but equally can’t see it. He is politically naive and increasingly out of touch and out of his depth," they explained. 

“Let’s not forget – he was part of getting rid of Boris, then Liz, and was never elected by the members.” 

Another Tory MP reported feeling "a lot of unspoken tension" among the parliamentary party over apparent inaction by Sunak to deliver on his pledge to eradicate illegal migration. 

“People are going quiet rather than vocal on the WhatsApps. Despair may be in some ways worse than anger,” they said.  

After Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, former cabinet minister Simon Clarke posted on social media to say that ministers need a “really robust emergency bill on Rwanda”. 

He added in a later post: “It doesn’t matter that Labour have no plan, and no intention of acting on this issue. We are the party in government and this is a fundamental issue of trust for our voters.”

One parliamentary expert has told PoliticsHome that it is “unusual” for the government to have proposed emergency legislation, but then for the details to have not been made public this long after. 

Dr Alice Lilly at the Institute for Government said it would be “fair to say” that it is “unusual for government to say we are going to do emergency legislation, but then not really spell out what that emergency legislation is going to do two weeks afterwards”. 

She described ministers as having “said the legislation will make everything fine but we don’t really know what that means, and that part does feel a bit different”.

Legislation to allow another of the government’s key policies is set to make its way to Parliament this week.

During the Autumn Statement last week, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that he would bring “urgent legislation” to the Commons to ensure that the national insurance tax cut could go ahead from January this year. Those plans are due to be debated on Thursday.

Lilly compared the Rwanda plans to the National Insurance legislation, and added: “That’s something that had been in the works clearly for a while before they announced it, but then they said they would do it quickly and it’s there.”

Lucy Powell, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, told PoliticsHome that the government is "weak and divided" over the issues.

"The ink isn’t even dry on the Government’s King’s Speech, yet the Prime Minister has already proposed a treaty requiring Parliamentary assent and new laws to mask their utter failure to get a grip of the Tories’ small boats crisis," she said. 

“The Government should come clean about which Bills they’ve only just announced in the King’s Speech will end up in the shredder. 

“The government is so weak and divided they haven’t even been able to agree their plan. Instead of pursuing more gimmicks for this costly and failing policy, the Government should bring forward Labour’s proper plan to clear the backlog and smash the criminal gangs.”

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Read the most recent article written by Tom Scotson and Caitlin Doherty - Suella Braverman Says Tories Face "Electoral Oblivion" If Rwanda Legislation Doesn't Meet Five Tests


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