Why Sunak and the Conservatives cared about the impact of the Rwanda bill’s result

The immigration legislation has overcome its first obstacle, but the Prime Minister still faces a challenging path for it to become law. A rebellion by five separate right-wing groups within the Conservative party has added to the turbulence for Rishi Sunak’s leadership, despite the government’s Rwanda bill passing its initial hurdle in the Commons. The bill aims to address concerns raised by the supreme court, which recently ruled that the previous deportation policy to Rwanda violated domestic and international laws. Sunak has been desperately trying to win the support of rebel MPs, but each group within the “five families” has decided not to back the government’s draft legislation, stating that “most of us will abstain.” The loose alliance claims to represent over 100 MPs, although fewer than 30 deliberately abstained during the Tuesday night vote, while others were absent for valid reasons, and none voted against it. The bill will now go into the committee stage, allowing disgruntled Tory MPs to voice their concerns about the current legislation, with further votes expected in the new year. The rebel groups are prepared to propose amendments in the hope of “significantly improving the bill and addressing some of its weaknesses.” However, they have mentioned their willingness to vote against it during the third reading if the Prime Minister fails to consider their views. Shortly after the vote, Sunak expressed his commitment to turning the emergency legislation into law “so that we can resume flights to Rwanda and tackle illegal boat crossings.” To achieve this, he will need to appease both the right-wing European Research Group (ERG) MPs and the One Nation Conservatives, who have stated their opposition if the bill comes close to breaching the law. While not a single Conservative MP voted against the bill, the Prime Minister’s authority has been somewhat undermined. The fact that the “five families” indicated they could oppose the bill during the third reading signifies the challenging road that Sunak faces. As the legislation progresses through parliament, many Tory MPs could still pose a threat. Potential challengers, including Suella Braverman and Robert Jenrick, who recently left the Home Office, are waiting and criticizing from outside the cabinet. The bill, which would legally classify Rwanda as a safe country, does not guarantee an end to all legal challenges against deportations to the central African nation. Sunak intends to present it as a “deterrent” to those seeking to enter the UK and convince voters that the Tories offer a viable solution to curbing small boat crossings in the Channel. The initial costs of the bill have already surged from £140m to £290m, even before the Home Office was ordered by a parliamentary committee to disclose the full bill. Arguably, this vote presented a significant moment for the Tory right-wing to leave their mark on this crucial legislation, given their numbers and their repeated criticisms of the bill for its perceived inadequacy. Now, the Prime Minister faces challenges from moderates within his own cabinet if the European Court of Human Rights were to issue emergency orders against the resumption of flights.

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