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Thursday, December 07, 2023

A split or a chasm?

News that the former immigration minister, Robert Jenrick quit on Wednesday because Sunak's emergency Rwanda legislation did not go far enough, is firmly in the how many angels can dance on the head of a pin territory. 

His reasoning is nonsense simply because the bill itself is unworkable, breaches human rights conventions and international law, and has zero chance of making any difference to irregular migration. To think that going further would work better is sheer fantasy.

What is interesting of course is where this leaves the Tory party. The Independent says that Tory MPs  are ‘deeply worried’ by Robert Jenrick’s resignation, while Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve says that the party is now “seriously split ideologically in a way that I have never seen before”.

The one thing I can agree with Jenrick on, is that the legislation, designed to salvage the government’s Rwanda deportation plan, will not work. Instead, we are firmly in Tory leadership succession territory centred on the most fundamental of differences, best summed up by Dominic Grieve:

“What we’re now watching is a split between people who believe in the rule of law, and people who don’t actually believe in the rule of law at all.”

Where does Sunak stand in that division? I would suggest that he is out on a limb with very few options. The Independent agrees:

Mr Jenrick’s resignation letter made clear he wanted to bypass the ECHR – revealing that he had been “pushing for the strongest possible” bill that would put “national interests above highly contested interpretations of international law”.

It leaves Mr Sunak facing the near-impossible task of winning votes from both the Tory right, who wanted a “full fat” crackdown on the ECHR, and moderate MPs in the “One Nation” group who warn they cannot back legislation that flouts human rights law.

We really do need a general election now.

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