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Resistance, Resignation and the Rwanda Bill: The Faltering Conservatives Election Bid



Lee Anderson's resignation could've been the rumblings of a significant exodus in the United Kingdom's ruling Conservative Party. The kind of rumbling that could have halted a successful Tory mobilisation in preparation for the upcoming election. Regardless, the Conservative boat has been rocked again. 


The Rwanda bill, whether thought of as too harsh or too soft, is a policy that has seen multiple Conservatives rebel against Sunak in the last few months. After all, it has played a significant part in the Conservative appeal to fear. The policy is supposed to be a selling point for them, even if they can't seem to get it off the ground. But for many, it is distasteful and, for others, too weak. 


The drawn-out scheme is a vast cash pump, flowing into a pledge essentially representing a policy buttress for the Conservatives against their fears heading into the election. The cost sits at an alarmingly high £240m. This bill's slow progress obfuscates what is going on for Britons, leaving us thinking, 'What are we still doing here?' The government has taken the taxpayer, leash in hand, trundling on this journey with them, with nothing to show. 


Furthermore, the bill could prove ineffective in the face of international law, as initial efforts were cut short by the Strasbourg court in 2022. Injunctions by European judges prevented what would have been the first flight to Rwanda. Now, two years on, this policy is still stuck firmly on the ground. 


The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, is showing his doubt, saying a refund may be in order. Rwanda seems to be ready to greet asylum seekers at its airports, but the British government is stuck and has left all involved waiting. I can see it now: Kagame stands with his arms crossed, an impatient thousand-yard glare, waiting for asylum seekers to arrive until, eventually, we get a new government, and the deal is called off at the end of this election cycle. He must be bemused to find nothing, not a single asylum seeker, arriving in his country. Kagame has actually said, "if they don't come, we can return the money." These aren't the words of a man who feels an enormous amount of hope in the policy, as he notes that this plan is dragging on.


These rumblings have created rifts within the Party and between the nations involved. Although on a smaller scale, it reminds me of the divisions caused by Brexit, divisions that redefined the Tory Party. Brexit left this nation with divisive and polarising politics, politics that are now leading to the fight for and against the Rwanda bill. Because of this shift, there are too many loud, unrepresentative voices in government that could never persuade a mellow middle England of their reactionary politics. Conservative reactionaries will only ever appeal to a small subset of the electorate, with ministers like Anderson liaising with the media. There's clearly a problem with the current crop of Tory MPs, and they've created an image of themselves as overly outspoken halfwits. 


Personalities are triumphing over the party leadership. They are challenging the Conservative policy, Party and PM publicly over and over again. Reactionary types lead to this milieu of disorganisation without any clear direction. Prominent characters who seek to have their politics represented, not the Party's, are imposing themselves. Sunak's authority is challenged frequently, and a portion of the Party continues to make its voice heard regardless. There are groups of Conservatives who take a wholly different stance on the execution and direction of legislation.


Divisions on key issues, in general, has always been a marker of a party with little chance of electoral victory - not to mention the abysmal polling. If you cannot keep your Party MPs onside, it'll ultimately lead to political chaos, and without consensus or effective statecraft, this chaos becomes electoral failure. The electability of the Party diminishes, ensuring a tough road ahead. 


The Party, specifically the leadership, is pursuing policy with disorganised direction, blind conviction, and without the complete support of its membership. It's a bleak reality that upwards of 60 ministers mounted an effort against the bill's third reading in the Commons, creating a sizable internal opposition wing. This kind of disunity muddies the water for how the Party markets itself to the electorate; as a party with evident internal divisions and a chaotic approach to policy, it's off-putting.


For the Rwanda bill and all its issues, the image of a party working collectively would be just as important as the bill's execution. Frankly, the policy either has to be refined, or the Tories have to actively shed the less savoury members and renew the party image. However, figures like Lee Anderson, Priti Patel and Suella Braverman won't be easily forgotten. Either way, there's an issue of alignment in the Party.

 

The awful optics the Conservatives are suffering from because of this bill ensure that scepticism rules the public image of the Tories and the Rwanda scheme. Proponents and opponents of the bill are both scrutinising the ruling Party as each sees a half-baked scrap of legislation forced through despite broken pledges, promising planes would leave by Spring.


This Party is desperately clawing at a culture war commodity to ensure that the Conservatives remain in the minds of the electorate. They want to stay as the Party whose image is pragmatism, hoping that people still believe they get things done. None of this is true of the current Conservative government. The Party has lost its image of stability, swift action, and professionalism and is now thought of as a Party of failure, degradation and disorganisation. The Tories need cleaning out.




Image: Getty Images/via The Mirror

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