In voting through the government’s Rwanda Bill, Conservative MPs have made a declaration: they want to reduce illegal immigration but they don’t want to take any of the hard choices required to do so. The final version of the Bill is the worst of both worlds, tailored to the sensitivities of the Tory left and yet still wide open to legal challenge. The chances that anything more than a token number of illegal immigrants are transferred to Rwanda between now and the election, whenever that is, are extremely slim.
Those who faithfully parrot the Number 10 line will regard the Bill’s passage as a political victory for Rishi Sunak. He has seen off the dastardly right-wing rebels and stuck a thumb in the eye of the open-borders left, all in one fell swoop. This could not be further from the truth. To the payroll vote, the election-year loyalists and those who are terminally Westminster-brained, the Prime Minister has shown the country that the Tories are united and serious about fighting illegal immigration. A great wave of clear blue water now separates the Conservatives and Labour.
What this doesn’t account for is that bills are legislation and legislation is routinely challenged in court and this legislation will be challenged far more than most. Its key provisions will be attacked and so too will the application of those provisions. When this happens, those same Sunak parrots will squawk about liberal judges and human rights and the blasted ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights). Do not fall for their cynical amateur dramatics.
It has been evident from the beginning that the Bill, while seeking to address the issues that saw the Rwanda scheme struck down by the courts, would not go far enough to put that scheme beyond a fresh barrage of legal challenges.