Skip to content

Badenoch Claims Sunak’s Position Not Under Threat Regardless Of Tories’ Local Election Performance – UK Politics Live

Rishi Sunak and Kemi Badenoch pictured together during prime minister’s questions last year. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

Rishi Sunak and Kemi Badenoch pictured together during prime minister’s questions last year. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PABadenoch rejects claim that voluntarily flying migrant to Rwanda just ‘extortionate pre-election gimmickGood morning. When the safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill was in the House of Lords before Easter, a mysterious delay crept in. There was plenty of time to get it passed before the Easter recess, but the government held it back, without giving a good reason, and even when parliament returned, the government did not make passing the law a matter of urgency. It only cleared parliament, and got royal assent, last week.

And now it is fairly clear why. With the bill on the statute book, we are seeing a flurry of Rwanda-related activity from the government – which, by miraculous coincidence, seems to be turning up in the papers just days and hours before people in England vote in the local elections.

Some of this activity is only possible because the Rwanda bill is law. As Rajeev Syal and Severin Carrell report, the Home Office has started detaining people and telling them that they will be sent to Rwanda.

The Sun today has got, what at first glance, seems an even more dramatic story. “Britain has removed the first failed asylum seeker to Rwanda,” it reports. “It is the first time the government has ever relocated a failed asylum seeker to a third country in what ministers are hoping is the first of thousands.”

At second glance, there is rather less to this than the headline implies. This is a voluntary relocation. The asylum seeker, who is described in the Sun as a man of African origin, is being paid £3,000 to fly to Rwanda. The Home Office has for a long time operated a voluntary returns programme, where it pays people to return home if their asylum application has failed, and this scheme, announced in March, is a variant of that policy, sending people to Rwanda instead. The government did not need the Safety of Rwanda Act to allow this, and it could have been done long before this week.

The opposition parties have described the news as an election gimmick. In a statement Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said:

The Tories are so desperate to get any flight off to Rwanda before the local elections that they have now just paid someone to go.

British taxpayers aren’t just forking out £3,000 for a volunteer to board a plane, they are also paying Rwanda to provide him with free board and lodgings for the next five years. This extortionate pre-election gimmick is likely to be costing on average £2m per person.

Former Tory Home Office ministers warned that the government’s plan was just to get token flights off before a general election. Now we know what they mean.

And Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson, said:

This is cynical nonsense from a Conservative party that is about to take a drubbing at the local elections. Paying someone to go to Rwanda highlights just how much of a gimmick and farce their plan is.

But Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, welcomed the development this morning. In an interview with LBC, she said it disproved the “myth” that Rwanda is not a safe country. She said:

This is somebody who has actually volunteered to go to Rwanda, which puts to bed this nonsensical myth that Rwanda was not a safe place.

It is. People go on holiday there. I know somebody who’s having a very lovely gap year there. We need to move past a lot of those myths, which are actually just disparaging about an African country.

This scheme was set up as a deterrence. It is working. Somebody has volunteered to go. Obviously, the easiest cases will be the first but there will be many more.

And if you look at what the Irish government has been saying recently, it looks like it is already working. They’re complaining that they’re getting people, failed asylum seekers, coming over there because they didn’t want to go to Rwanda.

And when it was put to her that paying the person to go voluntarily to Rwanda, and then paying for his accommodation , was expensive, she replied:

There is no cost free option, that is the truth of it. It’s better this way than for him to be in the UK, either claiming benefits or being entitled to things that other people in this country can’t have, which be much more expensive for the taxpayer. But there is no free way to police our borders.

Here is the agenda for the day.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

2.50pm: MSPs debate a motion of no confidence in the Scottish government. The debate will run for half an hour, and the vote will take place at 5pm.

Afternoon: Starmer is on a visit in Essex.

If you want to contact me, do use the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

Featured News