The next 48 hours could be among the most important of Rishi Sunak’s premiership. His flagship Rwanda Safety Bill will get its second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with MPs expected to vote on it in the evening. But before that there will be a day of tense meetings in rooms across the parliamentary estate as various Tory tribes gather to discuss the Bill and whether they can support it.
Much of the attention is focused currently on the right of the party. A quintet of factions will meet at noon on Monday under the auspices of the European Research Group to hear the conclusions of its ‘Star Chamber’ of lawyers. They have already given the legislation a ‘thumbs down’ with chairman Sir Bill Cash writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph that the legislation is insufficiently ‘watertight’ to avoid protracted legal challenges by illegal migrants.
Such a conclusion is hardly surprising, given the trenchant criticisms of the Bill by Robert Jenrick – the man who, until Wednesday, was charged with piloting it through the Commons. More worrying for party managers is the turnout expected, with representatives from the Common Sense Group, New Conservatives, Northern Research Group and Conservative Growth Group all expected there. The aforementioned encompass cultural conservatives, social conservatives, Red Wallers and Trussites too.
In the evening, attention will likely switch to the centrist wing of the party. The One Nation Group will meet Monday night and release a statement at around 7 p.m. Chaired by Damian Green, this caucus claims more than 100 members and are mindful of what the legislation would mean for Britain’s international obligations. Downing Street will be relieved that thus far, key members of the group appear to be remaining onside and could begrudgingly back the Bill despite reservations.
What is telling is how few Tory MPs outside the government have said that they will either support or vote against the government – most are keeping their powder dry.