Senior Conservatives urged their fellow MPs and party members over the weekend to cease talk of plotting against Rishi Sunak, with the under pressure PM facing a crunch week with a key commons vote ahead.
A vote on the prime minister’s new Rwanda bill, formally the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, is expected on Tuesday.
It is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the legislation in its second reading.
Significantly, a government bill has not been defeated at this stage since 1986.
A large rebellion from critics — on both the PM’s moderate and right flanks — therefore, would deal a major blow to his premiership.
It comes as Conservative MPs hailing from a series of right-wing intra-party groupings will officially hear the verdict of their “star chamber” of expert lawyers, who have been examining the new bill over recent days.
MPs from the New Conservatives, Common Sense Group, Northern Research Group and the European Research Group will hear the full verdict of the so-called “star chamber” this afternoon, following reports on Sunday the lawyer collective had deemed the bill “not fit for purpose”.
Sir Bill Cash, who is leading the right-wing “star chamber”, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that the bill is not “sufficiently watertight to meet the Government’s policy objectives”.
David Davis, the former Brexit secretary and Conservative leadership contender, accused some of his colleagues of exacerbating the crisis to boost their own leadership profiles.
He warned that those “who trade off their own future against the future of the party always lose”.
Meanwhile, chair of the One Nation group of moderate Conservative MPs Damian Green described some of his colleagues as “mad or malicious or both”.
Former Conservative leader and cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged his party on Sunday to “stop shouting and just literally discuss these things in a reasonable way”.
This morning, asked if the prime minister’s leadership was being questioned, defence secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that he doesn’t “agree” with the characterisation.
He listed some of Sunak’s achievements: “In terms of [small boat] crossings, slashed by a third. Inflation halved, the economy growing when every commentator and body was saying that it would shrink this year.
“We are having success in these areas. Because, yes, sometimes you have to fight these things through, yes, you will have arguments about them – that’s the whole point of parliamentarians, if you don’t mind me saying, rather than some sort of spectacular goings-on.
“But, actually, the facts are we’re having success with it.”
Robert Jenrick, who resigned as immigration minister over the legislation, told the BBC on Sunday he will not support the “weak bill that will not work”.
But he said “we can fix this”, raising the possibility he could abstain along with other opponents before trying to amend the legislation at a later stage.
Meanwhile, Labour frontbencher Nick Thomas-Symonds has accused the Conservatives of being more interested in the survival of their own party than doing the right thing for the country.
Asked whether Labour will support Rishi Sunak‘s Rwanda bill in the commons on Tuesday, he told Sky News: “No”.
“This is the third change in the law in recent years on immigration”, Thomas-Symonds said.
“The previous two have not worked and this particular plan in terms of Rwanda is unworkable and it is astronomically expensive.”
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