A new year has seen the resumption of Westminster’s favourite parlour game: endless Tory infighting over the Rwanda Bill. But ahead of Rishi Sunak’s flagship legislation to ‘stop the boats’ returning to the Commons tomorrow, some Tory MPs spent the weekend arguing over a similarly thorny issue: where to house the 50,000-odd asylum seekers who have arrived in the UK already.
Unsurprisingly, with a tough election ahead of them, few Tories are keen on taking hundreds of migrants into their patch. The main WhatsApp group for Conservative MPs duly ignited on Sunday as various MPs made the case for why it should not be them.
Caroline Johnson, who sits for the true-blue Lincolnshire stronghold of Sleaford and North Hykeham, began by raising concerns about the Home Office’s current policy of moving migrants out of hotels into specially built houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). She flagged a case in ‘a quiet village cul-de-sac’ in her constituency where such a development is planned: ‘Fair to say villagers unimpressed.’
Shortly thereafter Lia Nici, a staunch red wall 2019-er, shot back by referencing the plight of her Grimsby constituents: ‘It is about time people living in affluent areas who haven’t had to experience what is happening in towns with less valuable properties (like mine) might start to understand what a devistating [sic] effect illegal migration is having in our communities. Then perhaps their MP’s might want to do something about it.’
Ouch. It was then the turn of Lincoln’s Karl McCartney who hailed Nici’s comments and turned on Johnson, his next-door-neighbour: ‘Exactly. And compare/contrast your circumstances to those in the next-door marginal seat of Lincoln, what plonking 2-5k illegal immigrants on an unsecured ex RAF Scampton Base only 3 miles from the City Centre will do for the Govt’s vote at the forthcoming GE… One house in a village, in a safe seat with 25k+ majority 🙄… stop your whinging.