Amid growing dissatisfaction over his handling of the Rwanda deportation policy, internal dissent and a broader perception of incompetence, the sharks are beginning to circle Rishi Sunak’s premiership, say Tim Shipman and Harry Yorke in the Sunday Times. Here’s an excerpt:
A growing number of Tory MPs believe they are already politically dead and blame Sunak for their demise. Far from uniting, the events of last week reveal a party in a state of disintegration where the leading political maxim has become “every man for himself”.
The immediate cause of the meltdown was Sunak’s handling of the Government’s legislative effort to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling that the Rwanda policy was unlawful. More generally, the uncertain handling of this and other issues has left MPs in despair about the judgment, ability, capacity and delivery of Sunak and his No. 10 team. A senior Conservative on the party payroll said: “In the last few weeks, we’ve announced a major tax cut and massive curbs to legal migration – and yet somehow people are talking about whether to get rid of the Prime Minister before the General Election.”
Robert Jenrick resigned as Immigration Minister on Wednesday after weeks trying to persuade the Prime Minister to go for the “full fat” option, which would have meant disapplying the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) from asylum law.
Sunak held three lengthy meetings with Jenrick to try to persuade him not to go. The first, on the evening of Wednesday, November 29th in the Prime Minister’s Downing Street study, led to a decision on Sunday and an announcement on Monday to toughen the rules on legal migration. Sunak had previously been reluctant to respond to suggestions made by both Jenrick and Suella Braverman, the former Home Secretary who was sacked last month. …
Jenrick saw a final version of the Illegal Migration Bill on Tuesday evening and slept on it before concluding that it was not enough and that he could not act as Sunak’s “human shield” for a bill he does not believe will work. They had another hour-long conversation in Sunak’s study after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, but Jenrick resigned at about 5pm.
Those who want a tougher line believe that Sunak has put his own future after Downing Street – his place on the international circuit – ahead of winning a general election by putting in place the toughest possible legislation to deter illegal migrants.
In one conversation, Sunak told Jenrick: “You would be willing to stand at the dispatch box and say that sometimes vital national interests override contested notions of international law. I’m not. That’s a red line for me.” In public, however, the Prime Minister is saying he is “doing everything I can” to stop the boats. Insiders claim that the objective of Sunak’s aides is “to get a handful of token flights off to Rwanda before an election” rather than actually solve the problem. …
One of Jenrick’s primary concerns is that, while the bill states that Rwanda is a safe country and disapplies the use of the Human Rights Act in a number of areas, it does not shut down the right of migrants to appeal on an individual basis.
He and others fear that those seeking to avoid removal will claim that particular characteristics – such as their political views, sexuality or health – will mean they cannot be looked after suitably in Rwanda. …
The fracture with Jenrick, once a close ally, is also seen by some MPs as proof of Sunak’s poor personnel management.
More widely, Sunak’s No. 10 team is seen as bunkered and out of touch but the ultimate judgment is against Sunak himself. “He’s a really bad politician,” said one ostensibly loyal cabinet minister. …
Into this infighting have stepped pretenders to the crown. Cabinet colleagues accuse Kemi Badenoch, the Trade Secretary, of calling another minister to say: “The ship is heading for the rocks. What are we going to do about the captain?” One cabinet minister entertaining thoughts of a leadership run said: “Kemi’s people are already offering jobs. I know that because one of my people was approached.”
Worth reading in full.