New Times,
New Thinking.

The Tory party is inviting defeat

The party’s self-destruction over the Rwanda bill shows it is simply too divided to govern.

By Freddie Hayward

On it goes. The Rwanda plan has consumed two years of parliamentary time and energy. It has pitted the government against the courts and Conservative MPs against themselves. The time left to get the scheme up-and-running before the election is shrinking. The party can’t even agree on what form it should take. Last night, 63 MPs rebelled against the Rwanda bill – which declares the African country a “safe” place to send migrants, in order to address the Supreme Court’s concerns – and two deputy party chairmen resigned.

“The last thing either of us wants to do is to distract from [the plan to stop the boats],” read Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith’s resignation letter. In this respect, they failed.

The government wants the next election to be fought over tax cuts and debt. It wants to scare voters with accusations of Labour profligacy. Instead, headlines and news packages are replete with Tory sniping over whether the Rwanda plan can work. Lee Anderson’s and Brendan Clarke-Smith’s faces were plastered across the news last night. I can’t remember a week when the government’s “grid” wasn’t submerged under Conservative back-stabbing and briefing. Ask party MPs about the situation, and they will shrug then tell you about their plans for after the next election. Like Monday’s YouGov poll which showed Labour on course for victory, last night’s rebellions only told us what we already knew.

“Please don’t,” pleaded the One Nation MP Damian Green on Sky News. But few of his colleagues are listening. Message discipline eludes divided parties. If the bill does pass tonight, then what will be the story? That Rishi Sunak has passed hard-line, emergency legislation to deal with migrant crossings? Or that the Conservative Party is divided and his own MPs don’t think his plan will work?

Tory MPs have guaranteed it’s the latter. They are not acting in their own interests. The conclusion must be that they have given up retaining their seats. Or perhaps the regularity of regicide in recent years has made rebellion habitual. Others are angry at the five-year absence of achievement. Covid and Ukraine dominated, true. But even then, the promise to level up the country has been revealed as only a few billion pounds that northern towns can beg for and the cancellation of a botched plan for high-speed rail. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it is often Red Wall Tory MPs – let down on levelling up – who are leading the charge on immigration. They were marched up a hill and left stranded.

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.

A more fundamental problem is the weary malaise that is affecting some Tory MPs. Beneath the rebels’ showmanship, many are pained by the party’s descent in the polls and, in their eyes, descent in virtue. One rueful Tory mused to me recently that there was little status any more in being an MP, little dignity. “That’s gone,” they said.

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

[See also: Is the Tory right prepared to bring down Rishi Sunak?]

Content from our partners
<strong>The future of private credit</strong>
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce

Topics in this article : ,