When Boris Johnson’s position was at its most precarious two months in the past, he had to persuade Conservative MPs sticking by his facet was price it.
A plan was devised – dubbed “Operation Red Meat” – to give these dropping religion in his administration some perception that there was the next function than simply defending their chief by scandal after scandal.
The prime minister knew he wanted to shore up help, show himself a correct conservative and enact extra of the insurance policies that noticed him clinch an 80-seat majority at the final election.
A serious theme of the Tories’ marketing campaign in 2019 was Brexit – and in the years since, Johnson has been conscious that the message about “taking back control of our borders” was significantly potent for some.
Senior advisers have been eager to guarantee the voters who swung from Labour to the Conservatives – typically by way of Ukip and the Brexit occasion – find yourself sticking with Johnson at the subsequent election.
As such, it was with a lot fanfare that Johnson needed to announce a tricky new immigration coverage designed at deterring migrants from making the perilous journey throughout the Channel from France by way of “irregular” routes.
But whereas it got here as welcome information to many Tory MPs, there are nonetheless considerations about the element: the value and the alternative of Rwanda as the nation the place some asylum seekers might be despatched.
Just final month, Conservative peer Lord Kirkhope warned that “the costs of offshoring would be exorbitant”, citing “conservative estimates” of round £2m per individual a year. So far, simply £120m has been dedicated by the UK authorities to fund the scheme.
Despite repeated guarantees from dwelling secretary Priti Patel to carry the numbers down, they continue to be at their highest on-record: 4,600 individuals have arrived on small boats on the Kent coast this year, with about 600 in a single day earlier this week – and “hundreds” extra on Thursday.
The failure to get the numbers down got here up in one-to-ones Johnson held with wobbling MPs when he was in his famed “listening mode” at the finish of January.
His ear was bent repeatedly about the situation, not solely by individuals who thought the authorities ought to take stronger motion to finish the arrival of migrants on small boats, but additionally those that believed it was a useful topic to be dominating the political agenda.
The Conservatives have risked being outflanked on conventional turf, akin to legislation and order, however know that the topic of border controls permits them to extra simply exploit the previous divisions of the Brexit years – and strive to paint Labour as delicate on immigration.
While one Conservative MP, Andrew Mitchell, has expressed concern about the plan, many extra in the occasion had been celebrating that they may lastly seem to be tackling irregular migration.
“We’ve been waiting ages for action like this,” a “red wall” Tory MP supportive of the coverage admitted.
Government insiders stated that they had been hoping to announce it months in the past, to strive shifting consideration away from the authentic partygate scandal.
And Johnson was stated to have pushed laborious for it to be introduced earlier than the native elections, when many Conservatives fear they are going to be thumped over the fines and ongoing police probe into law-breaking events in Downing Street.
Rwanda’s human rights document has additionally prompted concern – given the UK does soak up refugees who say they are fleeing the menace of persecution in the exact same nation.
Finally, there may be the situation of whether or not the powerful speak will translate right into a dramatic discount in the variety of individuals crossing the Channel, or just draw consideration to a problem the authorities has to this point appeared unable to resolve.
The authorities’s personal refugee minister, Richard Harrington, hinted at this final week, admitting: “I’m having difficulty enough getting them from Ukraine to our country, there’s no possibility of sending them to Rwanda.”
Some Tory insiders concern that is simply one other sticking plaster resolution – and that over-promising and under-delivering might be extra damaging for the occasion in the long run.