Rishi Sunak used his appearance before the 1922 committee this evening to tell MPs – once again – that the choice facing them was ‘unite or die’. He argued that the only choice facing the Tory party was to get behind his Rwanda ‘Plan B’ or to lose to Labour. Alas that message appears to have held little to no sway with his former ally Robert Jenrick, who has this evening resigned from government. After rumours swirled this evening, Jenrick has confirmed he has stepped down from his post stating: ‘I cannot continue in my position when I have such strong disagreements with the direction of the Government’s policy on immigration.’
Jenrick has already been pretty vocal about his reservations over Sunak’s legal migration plans. This week, Sunak took the bulk of Jenrick’s suggestions on board in this area with his new five-point plan. However, Sunak’s Rwanda plan proved a bridge too far. Jenrick shared the view of his former boss Suella Braverman that Sunak needed to go further and ‘disapply’ the European convention on human rights. However, Sunak’s reason to MPs for not going that ‘one inch’ further is that the Rwandan government could have pulled the scheme entirely. Comments from the government tonight highlight their unease at the criticism they have received so far – when they want to be a part of the international community.
So, what does Jenrick’s resignation mean for Sunak politically? Jenrick was once one of Sunak’s closest allies – penning a decisive piece for Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign alongside Sunak and Oliver Dowden. The trio were at one point seen as the three musketeers on a path to greatness. Some say Jenrick was unhappy that the vacant role of Home Secretary went to James Cleverly rather than himself. He was previously seen as Sunak’s eyes and ears in the Home Office.