Conservative grandees issue warning to Rwanda rebels: do not ‘wreck’ Sunak’s government

Conservative “big beasts” are lining up behind Rishi Sunak ahead of a crunch vote this evening over his Rwanda bill, amid speculation that a series of party right factions could rebel. 

In his first major intervention since his resignation as defence secretary earlier this year, Ben Wallace warned rebels in an article for the Telegraph not to “wreck” Sunak’s government. 

Ahead of the Safety of Rwanda Bill’s first commons vote this evening, Wallace, once considered a Boris Johnson loyalist, urged his colleagues not to “make the perfect (but unrealistic) the enemy of the good”.

Describing immigration as a “Rubik’s cube of a problem”, Wallace continued: “Before anyone in my party thinks the solution to this Rubik’s cube is to wreck the Government, perhaps we should calmly state that we are heading in the right direction and making progress.”

He added: “Conservative MPs must not let Keir Starmer off the hook by turning [Tuesday’s] vote into an exercise of making the perfect (but unrealistic) the enemy of the good. Strong deterrence has to be built brick by brick.”

The intervention came after a meeting of 40 right-wing MPs on Monday resolved to abstain or vote against the bill unless the government offers major concessions.

The prime minister was offered a lifeline, last night, as the One Nation group recommended its 106-strong MP membership to back the bill. 

A statement for the group read: “the One Nation Caucus of Conservative MPs is recommending that its members vote for the Government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill at its Second Reading”.

Wallace’s intervention was echoed by fellow former cabinet minister David Davis, who said on Monday it would be “crackers” to try to harden up the bill.

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague has also warned in a column in the Times newspaper that if they can’t pass the bill “they are going into opposition”.

Hague added: “And if they were mad enough to try to bring down yet another leader, the case for an immediate general election would become unanswerable.”

Former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox, who served under both Theresa May and Boris Johnson during the dog days of Brexit, told BBC Newsnight he believes the Bill has been drafted “very tightly”.

“I think it is about as far you could go without risking the complete blockage and collapse of the Bill.”

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Home Secretary James Cleverly has also issued an explicit rebuttal of calls from Conservative hardliners, telling those that want to toughen up the legislation: “Those who say that the Bill doesn’t go far enough are, with all due respect, mistaken”.

He added in an article for the Telegraph: “The way to prove that it cannot work is not to make sure that it cannot work.”

This morning, around 20 members of the New Conservatives are attending breakfast with the prime minister after the grouping said his Rwanda bill “needs major surgery or replacement”.

Rishi Sunak is hoping the breakfast will diminish a potential rebellion on his Rwanda policy.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has this morning dismissed the government’s Rwanda plan as a “gimmick”, telling BBC Breakfast that the plan was a “performance art”.

“What I wouldn’t do, and what I won’t vote for, is £290 million spent on a gimmick that is the Rwanda scheme, that won’t work, at the very most will take about 100 people – we’ve got 160,000 people waiting for their asylum claims to be processed, so it’s a drop in the ocean,” he said.

He added: “It costs a fortune and, as we learnt from the prime minister when he finally admitted it last week, the deal be struck will also involve Rwanda sending their refugees across to the United Kingdom.

“It’s a gimmick, it won’t work, it is performance art. What I would do is do the more mundane, sleeves-rolled-up, practical work to stop this vile trade in the first place.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.