James Cleverly has made it clear that the ‘Rwanda Plan,’ which has brought this Tory government nothing but humiliation, will never succeed.
Cleverly was made home secretary two weeks ago today and, with legal migration reaching a record high and Britain’s borders lacking any semblance of control, has quite the job ahead of him. Comments made during his first interview in this role suggest that even he doesn’t think he is up for the challenge.
The ‘Rwanda Plan’ to send illegal migrants to the African nation for asylum screening has been at the centre of the government’s rhetorical drive to control the border since its April 2022 introduction. But Cleverly told The Times on Saturday that he wishes the scheme drew less attention:
My frustration is that we have allowed the narrative to be created that this was the be all and end all. The mission is to stop the boats. That’s the promise to the British people. Never lose sight of the mission. There are multiple methods. Don’t fixate on the methods. Focus on the mission.
You don’t have to know much about politics to recognise this as an admission of defeat. If the ‘plan’ was successful, ministers would be begging the papers to focus on this and nothing else. They would be quite happy to see it characterised as the “be all and end all” for stopping illegal migration.
But that’s a big ‘if.’ Instead, we saw the first planned flight to Rwanda cancelled and later the scheme itself was brought to a halt due to it being deemed unlawful. Rishi Sunak’s cabinet now appears fairly certain that no deportations will take place before the next general election (at which point it is likely to be thrown out of office), not least because its members disagree on the most talked-about method of getting flights in the air by ignoring national and international law.
Having failed to persuade the Office for National Statistics to delay the publication of record-high immigration figures, Cleverly also attempted to excuse this rise by pointing to “things that have happened since 2019 that have so redefined the world.” Perhaps he forgot that the Tories have promised to bring migration to the tens of thousands not since 2019 but since 2010.
After revised figures last week showed that net migration into the UK was a record 745,000 in 2022, Cleverly said it was important that ministers “don’t talk tough, [but] be tough.” With Blair-inspired David Cameron back in the top team, Sunak accused of breaking promises to bring figures down, and Cleverly making weak excuses for never-ending failure, it’s hard to imagine the Tories managing to talk tough any more—never mind act it.