New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
  2. UK Politics
11 December 2023

Sunak’s problems go much deeper than the Rwanda bill

Conservative infighting risks obscuring any policy successes the Prime Minister enjoys.

By Freddie Hayward

The Prime Minister is under attack from all sides. When Nigel Farage returned from the I’m a Celeb… jungle this week he will have been pleased to find a Conservative Party splintered over Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill, which declares the African country a safe place to send refugees. Those factions will decide later today (11 December) how to vote on the legislation when it comes to the House of Commons tomorrow. At the forefront of their minds will be the way support for the right-wing Reform UK party is rising.

But Sunak’s problems go much deeper than this. The Tories’ stubborn polling deficit has led some of their MPs to brief the newspapers that the party’s only chance of survival lies in a return of Boris Johnson, arm-in-arm with Farage. Keir Starmer is hoping to capitalise on the chaos with a speech tomorrow on how Tory disunity has left the country ungoverned. “Is there anybody in the government now who feels a sense of obligation to something other than themselves?” he will say. To top it off, the Prime Minister must endure two days of scrutiny at the Covid inquiry over his handling of the pandemic as chancellor.

Sunak is not alone in facing a parliamentary split over immigration: later today French parliamentarians will vote on Emmanuel Macron’s immigration proposals. They include cutting the number of asylum application appeals from 12 to two, and speeding up deportations, while at the same time providing work permits to undocumented people to deal with labour shortages. The French president’s borrowing of ideas from both sides of the aisle has provoked condemnation from the conservative Republicans and Marie Le Pen’s National Rally.

But for Sunak, the greatest threat remains from inside his own party. The problems with the Rwanda plan continue to stack up: there is a long way between now and this policy saving the Tory party some seats, let alone the election. First, No 10 must get the bill through parliament. Sunak has enlisted David Cameron to talk his MPs off the ledge – a curious decision when you reflect that Cameron’s failure to control the right of his party led to his demise. Today’s agenda for Tory MPs is to decide whether to oppose the bill tomorrow or to express their discontent at the committee stage after Christmas. Even then, the bill could be gummed up by legal challenges. Even if the bill succeeds in getting through, it’s uncertain that the public will even notice planes taking off for Rwanda, so obscured has the scheme become by the Conservative Party’s own bickering.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; receive it every morning by subscribing on Substack here.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

[See also: Across Europe, far-right parties are rising]

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy

Topics in this article : , , ,