Gloom for Sunak as he admits Rwanda flights won’t take off - GulfToday

Gloom for Sunak as he admits Rwanda flights won’t take off

Rishi Sunak 55

Rishi Sunak

David Maddox, The Independent

The prime minister began the day by infuriating Tory MPs as he was forced to admit deportation flights to Rwanda will not go ahead before the election, prompting senior figures to declare the policy “dead”. An exodus of Conservative MPs saw five more — including two ministers — declare they will not seek reelection, taking the total to 70. His problems were compounded when the first poll taken after the election announcement revealed support for the Tories has fallen even further, while Labour’s lead has widened. The Techne UK poll, shared with The Independent, put Labour up one on 45 per cent, and the Tories down two at 19 per cent — the first time they have been below 20 percent. Even more concerning will be the apparent rise in support for Reform UK on the right, up two to 14 per cent with the Lib Dems on 12 per cent and Greens on five per cent.

Prospects of a split among right-wing voters were also increased on Thursday when Reform UK announced it will field candidates in 630 constituencies. Meanwhile, Mr Sunak was embarrassed on the campaign trail when it emerged a man asking a question at a public forum was in fact a Tory councillor. Then he made a gaffe in Barry, south Wales by asking voters if they were “looking forward to the football” — even though Wales had failed to qualify. With an enormous deficit in the polls to make up, the prime minister desperately needed a good first day on the campaign trail. This was particularly true after he was mocked for his launch speech outside Downing Street in which he was drenched by rain and battled to be heard over Tony Blair’s 1997 campaign song “Things Can Only Be Better” being blasted out by anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray. Mr Sunak admitted in early interviews that the plan to deport migrants to Rwanda would be delayed until after the election. This prompted anger from a number of senior Tories who had been banking on the flights to go ahead to help persuade voters they have the “small boats” crisis under control.

One ex-cabinet minister declared: “The Rwanda plan is now dead.” Another former senior minister said: “It’s frankly disgraceful. All the arguments Robert Jenrick and Sir Bill Cash made at the turn of the year [over the Rwanda Bill] were right. (Sunak)’s accepted he was wrong and his policy doesn’t work, if he ever intended to stop the boats at all. Everyone who went along with his plan in the cabinet should be ashamed.” That sentiment was echoed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said: “I don’t think he’s ever believed that plan is going to work, and so he has called an election early enough to have it not tested before the election. “We have to deal with the terrible loss of control of the border under this government, we have to tackle the small boats that are coming across but nobody should be making that journey.” Mr Sunak insisted the Rwanda scheme would still provide a deterrent, telling GB News: “Unless you’re able to deliver that, people will keep coming.”

On a visit to a distribution centre in Derbyshire, the prime minister sought to hammer his message that the Tories have a “clear plan” while Labour would go “back to square one”. He was also having to deal with an exodus of MPs. Ministers Jo Churchill and Huw Merriman joined deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing and backbenchers James Grundy and Sir Michael Ellis in announcing they would not be seeking reelection.


Meanwhile, the Techne UK poll of 1,643 people revealed deeply disturbing trends for the Tories. Only a third (36 per cent) of the 2019 Tory voters would still vote for the party, 19 per cent have switched to Reform UK even without Nigel Farage, and 14 per cent to Labour. Another 19 per cent are uncertain. Techne’s chief executive Michela Morizzo said: “Westminster and the whole country are still in shock that Rishi Sunak called the general election yesterday for 4 July. Our regular tracker poll today, the first after the announcement, delivers a bombshell immediate assessment for the prime minister and his party. For the first time ever our polling shows the Conservatives dropping below the 20 per cent national vote share.

“This is the highest Labour lead we have given Starmer’s Party in any poll we have completed to date. Richard Tice’s Reform UK jumps up a significant two points in national vote share to 14 per cent, again the highest share of the national vote we have ever recorded.

“If these polling figures were delivered on General Election day Sunak’s party would record less than 100 Conservative members of Parliament and Starmer’s party would have a considerable majority. Things look very bleak for the Conservatives indeed and it seems very difficult to think of anything other than a strong Labour victory on 4 July.” According to Electoral Calculus, a prediction website often used to judge the state of the parties, this result would leave the Tories as the third party in British politics with just 34 seats behind the Lib Dems on 62 while Labour would have an overall majority of 388.


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