The Tories’ attempts to solidify their position in the run up to the election are failing.
Rishi Sunak, while trying to unify his party, almost faced mutiny over his Rwanda bill—for the second time.
The fight over the new bill underlines the government’s weaknesses, and with two by-elections coming up, the crisis is set to continue.
Sunak survived a rebellion over the Rwanda deportations bill in the Commons last Wednesday, with the bill passing by 320 votes to 276, a majority of 44, on its third reading.
It will now go to the House of Lords for debate where more divisions are expected. Sunak told the Lords to pass the bill and enact the “will of the people”.
A group of 60 Tory MPs, backed from outside the Commons by Boris Johnson, had put forward amendments the night before the vote to make the Rwanda scheme even more brutal and racist.
Sir William Cash, a right wing backbencher who voted against the bill, said, “I don’t believe that this is the toughest immigration legislation that we could produce.”
Another 60 Tory MPs backed an amendment from Robert Jenrick. This included short-lived former prime minister Liz Truss and deposed home secretary Suella Braverman.
Other opponents included Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and ex-cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg. Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith quit their roles as Tory deputy chairmen to vote with rebels.
But even if they argue over how best to implement their racism, the Tories are united over one thing—their hatred of refugees. The bill rams through deportation flights without people being able to claim asylum and declares Rwanda a “safe country” to bypass court restrictions.
Home secretary James Cleverly said the government will do “whatever it takes to stop the boats”—meaning more death for refugees trying to make it to safety in Britain.
At the centre of the Tory in-fighting are thousands of refugees who fear deportation to Rwanda. The Tories against Sunak want to “strengthen” the bill so that refugees can be deported to Rwanda in east Africa more easily.
So far, none have been sent due to legal challenges to the plans. But the scapegoating will only encourage more far right and racist attacks outside hotels where refugees are housed and hostility to migrants.
Labour’s campaign coordinator Pat McFadden said the deputy chairmen’s resignations showed Sunak is “too weak to lead his party and too weak to lead the country”.
And Keir Starmer slammed the Rwanda plan as a “farce”. But, under a Labour government, he still wants to bring in measures that will clamp down on refugees trying to make it to safety in Britain.
As a general election nears, both the Tories and Labour will compete over who is most effective against immigration.
From restricting migrant workers’ rights, to evicting refugees onto the freezing streets, Sunak will continue to make life miserable for refugees. He will hope this saves him from a huge electoral defeat.
Anti-racists have to keep mobilising in solidarity with refugees, migrants and all victims of racist scapegoating.
Organise to fight racism
Anti-racists must mobilise for Stand Up To Racism’s (SUTR) upcoming events. A conference for trade unionists is an opportunity to discuss how workers can battle the oncoming challenges in their workplaces.
And every anti-racist should be building for SUTR’s demonstrations in March in London, Glasgow and Cardiff to show that ordinary people do not accept the Tories or Labour’s, racism.
Sunday 11 February: Fighting for anti-racist workplaces conference, NEU building, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD and online. Details and registration at tinyurl.com/SUTR11Feb
Saturday 16 March (London, Glasgow) and Sunday 17 March (Cardiff): Stop racism marches. The London demo will assemble at the Home Office.
See standuptoracism.org.uk/ for more details