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Obsessed Prime Ministers

By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

The Prime Minister has created a first class political crisis by staking the whole government's credibility on the narrow issue of Stop the Boats according to Jim in his latest blog.

50 years ago, petrol coupons were being issued and the country was preparing for a three day week, so it has been worse.

However, the events of the last week have painted a dismal picture of political leadership in this country.

Rishi Sunak is beginning to resemble Edward Heath in becoming obsessed with an individual issue. Heath was determined to curb trade union power. He introduced an Industrial Relations Court that nearly caused a General Strike, and he passed legislation denying power to homes and businesses.

Sunak is focused on an even narrower policy of stopping the boats. To do so he is set on passing a law which states that Rwanda is a safe country even if it isn’t. The law will also disapply sections of the Human Rights Act. He has split his party between spartans who, now include the very minister who was meant to pilot the legislation through and would have us withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and one nation Tories who are appalled that the party of law and order is prepared to confront the judiciary.

Let me acknowledge, before I continue, that immigration is now second only to the economy in people’s list of issues they are concerned about. A democratic government has a duty to address the people’s priorities. The public may want less pressure on public services and their elderly relatives cared for (when few Brits want the jobs) but cakeism is a feature of modern society.

Sunak’s mistake is to make stopping the boats such a high profile part of his immigration strategy. On Monday measures were unveiled to curb legal migration. There are worries that they will hit the care sector with workers refusing to come without their dependents. But the news caravan rapidly moved on to Stop the Boats. That is consuming vast amounts of the Prime Minister’s time and energy. Everyone will be able to judge Rishi Sunak by whether the boats stop coming across the Channel. It is a black and white measurable issue compared to the more complex world of immigration statistics involving students, people from Hong Kong and people who’ve come here and gone missing.

The fear amongst wide swathes of the Conservative Party is that the narrow right to appeal by refugees on individual grounds (not a general one that Rwanda is unsafe) will keep the courts in the game. Sunak has had to leave that right open because otherwise Rwanda would not proceed with the treaty. It has come to something when Rwanda is keener to maintain international law than Britain.

So far Sunak has shied away from making the passage of the bill a vote of confidence. Nor has he done what John Major did with John Redwood in 1995 and launch a back me or sack me leadership challenge.

The fact that we are wondering if Sir Graham Brady is receiving more letters of no confidence than Christmas cards, and that there are even rumours of a possible third unelected Prime Minister since 2019, show the state we are in. Roll on the Christmas break!

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