Who is to blame if no flights with asylum seekers leave the UK for Rwanda ahead of the election? In a Downing Street press conference this morning, Rishi Sunak tried to suggest the answer would be the House of Lords or Labour rather than his government. In a bid to capitalise on the ‘Safety of Rwanda’ bill passing at third reading in the Commons last night, Sunak urged peers not to ‘frustrate the will of the people’ when the legislation now passes to the Lords:
‘There is now only one question. Will the opposition in the appointed House of Lords try and frustrate the will of the people as expressed by the elected house in the unelected house or will they get on board and do the right thing?’
Throughout the press conference, Sunak referred to his ‘plan’ and the importance of continuing with it. He repeatedly attacked Labour for having no plan and used the new government soundbite of claiming a vote for Keir Starmer would mean going back to ‘square one’ (notably no-one said what exactly square one would like.
The PM’s rhetoric made the presser a very political event, where Sunak tried to move on from the Tory infighting of the past few days by taking the fight to Labour. In the question and answer session, he played down the idea that his party was divided (pointing to the small number of Tory rebels) despite reports that some rebel MPs have sent in no confidence letters. Instead, Sunak insisted his party was united on stopping the boats and said he was willing to ignore international law when it comes to Rule 39 orders from European Court of Human Rights.
Sunak is helped by the fact that, despite all the talk from the rebels, the scale of the rebellion was small.