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Voting against Government's Rwanda plans

This is my fortnightly column which is published first in the Fife Herald, East Fife Mail, and St Andrews Citizen.

The government won a vote on its latest attempt to make the Rwanda policy work, but not after exposing the chaos that was always just below the surface in the Conservative party. This was only the first hurdle that the legislation faces and fractious groups of malcontent Tory MPs look likely to continue their campaign when it returns in January. Rishi Sunak ends the year with his lack of authority in his government, in his own party, and in the country as clear as ever.

I was proud to vote against the government’s Rwanda plan last night and the desperate legislation ministers were pushing to keep it alive. The policy of is immoral, unworkable, and has been shown up as a catastrophic waste of taxpayers’ money.

Even on its own terms, the government’s policy has completely failed. They handed over £140 million last year to Rwanda, and understandably embarrassed, kept quiet that about another £100 million in April. A further £50 million is scheduled for next year. To put that in perspective, the money already given out would have paid for over 5.7 million GP appointments. As health services in Fife continue to struggle I know where I would have spent that money.

It has also become increasingly clear that again, even on its own terms, the government’s plan cannot succeed. It has been reported that at most the scheme would see only hundreds of people sent to Rwanda, far from the government’s claims. Desperate people, the majority of whom are granted asylum or other leave to stay in the UK when their claims are processed, will continue to take terrible risks to cross the channel. Many will continue to die.

The way to stop this tragedy is clear. We need the government to reinstate safe and legal routes so that those people with a valid claim to be in the UK can come here. At the same time the government must reduce the processing backlog for asylum claims so that decisions are made swiftly. None of that is achieved by wasting hundreds of millions of pounds of a scheme that won’t work.

We should all be deeply concerned by what the government is doing to ram through a policy which has become totemic for many extreme Conservative MPs. Respect for the rule of law is normally a conservative principle, but this Conservative government is content to run rough-shod over a decision of the Supreme Court and suspend human rights legislation. It is a terrible precedent that the rights which protect us all can be taken away by a government majority.

This all shows the arrogance in Rishi Sunak’s leadership. At the last general election he was a relatively low-profile minister in the Treasury. He became prime minister without a vote of MPs or even party members. He is as unpopular in the country as Boris Johnson was when he was removed from office. As a general election looms next year, this week has shown the weakness of his position.


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