Prime Minister Rishi Sunak isn’t considering calling early elections over push-back from Tory allies to his latest effort to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda for processing, according to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove.
Sunak proposed new legislation to help shield the Rwanda plan from legal challenge and that bill is due for an initial vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday. Sunak is spending the weekend trying to quell rebellions from both the right and center of his party that threaten to scupper the bill and erode his leadership.
“I am confident that when people look at the legislation and have a chance to reflect that they will recognize that this is a tough but also proportionate measure,” Gove said in an interview on Sky News on Sunday. The government had “no intention” of calling an early election in the face of opposition within the Tory ranks, he said.
Sunak, who had initially opposed the Rwanda plan before becoming premier, has now staked his future on the deportations as a critical piece of the effort to slash record migration into the country. Tory Rebels have threatened to vote against the legislation, saying it doesn’t go far enough to prevent migrants from launching legal challenges to deportation.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, a Sunak ally, resigned over the Rwanda plan on Wednesday when it was announced, exposing just how profound the rift in the party over immigration remains. Jenrick said in an interview with the BBC on Sunday the current legislation will not deliver the “serious deterrent” needed to dissuade people from entering the country illegally and would not prevent deportations from being tied up in the courts.
“I won’t support this bill, but I do feel like we can fix this,” Jenrick told the BBC.
Arrivals to the UK remain at record levels, despite repeated promises from Sunak and his Tory predecessors to curtail immigration. The government has already paid Rwanda £240 million ($301 million) so far, and no deportations have yet taken place because of legal challenges to the plan.
Sunak must call elections by January of 2025 and the Conservatives have been consistently trailing the opposition Labour party by 20 percentage points in opinion polls. Curtailing immigration is critical to the Tories having any chance in the election, Jenrick said.
“If immigration policy isn’t brought under control then the Tories deserve to “face the red hot fury of the public.”