Polling expert sees Rwanda scheme as ‘last card’ Sunak can play against Labour

The government’s Rwanda deportation plan is the “last substantial card” the prime minister has left to play against the Labour Party ahead of the next general election, a polling expert has said.

Polling guru professor Sir John Curtice was reacting this morning to the passage of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill last night, which enables the full scheme. 

The plan seeks to deport asylum seekers arriving in the UK via small boats to the African nation. 

Sir John was asked how important a moment the legislation’s passage could be electorally for the Conservatives.

***Politics.co.uk is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.***

“It is certainly going to matter electorally in the sense that whether it succeeds or fails this perhaps is the last substantial card that the government seems to have up its chest that it hasn’t already played in its continuing but so far unsuccessful attempt to try to narrow Labour’s opinion poll lead which as we speak still stands at 20 points”, Sir John told Times Radio.

He added: “The government can point to polling evidence that suggests that on balance rather more people seem to favour the idea than are opposed, though I do say ‘on balance’, it is not overwhelming and it does depend a little bit on how you ask the question.”

Rwanda Bill passes as House of Lords opts not to table further amendments — as it happened

For weeks, the House of Lords had been objecting to the Rwanda Bill and trying to get ministers to make changes to the controversial legislation.

The Lords had refused to pass the Rwanda Bill, digging its heels in on two issues:

  • Ensuring that Rwanda is not declared safe until an independent monitoring committee at work in the country confirms as much.
  • Exempting people who have served and helped British forces abroad.

But after a late-night standoff between the commons and the Lords, peers conceded to MPs and the government. 

It came after Rishi Sunak had said in a press conference that morning that deportation flights will start in “10 to 12 weeks”. 

Speaking on Monday morning, the prime minister also confirmed that the government has an airfield on standby and it has booked commercial charter planes to take migrants to Rwanda.

“I can confirm that we have put an airfield on standby, booked commercial charter planes for specific slots and we have 500 highly trained individuals ready to escort illegal migrants all the way to Rwanda with 300 more trained in the coming weeks”, he said.

He added: “We are ready. Plans are in place. And these flights will go come what may. No foreign court will stop us from getting flights off”.

Politics.co.uk is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.

Rwanda Bill: Rishi Sunak vows deportation flights will begin in ’10 to 12 weeks’