Whatever happens in the vote over emergency legislation tomorrow, Rishi Sunak is in deep trouble.
In making flights to Rwanda this totemic policy of his premiership, he has stoked a civil war in this party which threatens to blow up his benches and his leadership, as Brexit did for Theresa May.
Because just as with Brexit, the left and right of the party is split, unable to find common ground.
In essence, moderates are crystal clear that Sunak shouldn’t do anything that undermines the rule of law, while the right of the party wants the prime minister to harden up the bill – with some even believing the government should pull out of international obligations such as the European Convention of Human Rights.
What is the revamped Rwanda asylum plan?
On Monday night, Sunak did win the backing of the One Nation moderates, who said they’d vote for the emergency legislation tomorrow, but they also made it very clear their support is conditional.
“We have taken the decision that the most important thing at this stage is to support the bill despite our real concerns,” Damian Green, chair of the group, said.
But, he also said: “We strongly urge the government to stand firm against any attempt to amend the bill in a way that would make it unacceptable to those who believe that support for the rule of law is a basic Conservative principle.”
Shortly after that statement went out, representatives on the right of the Conservative Party sent out this: “More than 40 colleagues met tonight to discuss the bill.
Every member of that discussion said the bill needs major surgery or replacement.
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‘No plans’ to pull Rwanda bill
While Sunak says he will listen to concerns, allies have made it clear that he will not support a significant rewrite of the legislation.
He is a prime minister who wants to stay within the bounds of international law.
Over the next 24 hours, he will urge the right-wing rebels to stick with him. But what is so obviously clear is that winning tomorrow is only the beginning, not the end of the war.
Because if the right of the party back him now, it will be to amend the legislation further down the line.
These MPs will probably hope the government will support them at a later stage. And they would still retain the nuclear option of voting against the bill at the third reading. That doesn’t bear thinking about for the prime minister.
For now, Sunak is pulling out all the stops to win the vote tomorrow. His argument will be that this emergency legislation is all about the fundamental principle of tackling illegal immigration and that the party must be seen to be voting it through.
But he knows, too, that his is a showdown delayed not resolved. A party in civil war and a prime minister unable to stop it.
Written by: Newsroom