Katy Balls Katy Balls

Sunak wins the Rwanda vote – but the battle is far from over

Rishi Sunak hosts a press conference on his Rwanda migrant plan (Credit: Getty images)

The government has won Tuesday’s vote on the ‘Safety of Rwanda’ Bill comfortably at 313 votes to 269 against. This means Rishi Sunak has managed to pass his Bill at second reading after a day of negotiations with the various Tory tribes. Not a single Tory MP voted against the Bill. Thirty-eight conservative MPs abstained in total of which 29 Tory MPs abstained on principle. If the 29 had all voted against the Bill, this would have been enough to block it at second reading.

The result comes after various sceptic Conservative factions – including the European Research Group (ERG) and the New Conservatives – advised their members to abstain. The result will come as a relief to No. 10 following talk in the Conservative party that the vote could come down to the wire. Had the government lost at second reading, it would have been a devastating blow to Sunak’s authority, given that the last time a Bill from the government fell at a similar stage was 1986 under Thatcher on Sunday trading.

Sunak has avoided a leadership crisis before Christmas

However, the problem for Sunak is that, while he has had the best result he could have hoped for today (and the margins are less tight than many MPs had predicted), his MPs plan to take the fight to the next stage. The ERG of eurosceptic Tory MPs has warned that they will vote down the Rwanda Bill in the New Year if they don’t get the changes they want to see. Now based on these numbers, a majority of the MPs choosing to abstain would need to choose to vote against – but it’s not impossible.

It means that in many ways today’s result puts off rather than solves a clash within the Tory party. When the Bill reaches committee stage, the ERG and the One Nation group could yet put down amendments to change the Bill.

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