UK prime minister hopefuls battle for Tory votes with 'cruel' anti-immigration plans

UK prime minister hopefuls battle for Tory votes with 'cruel' anti-immigration plans
'They're in a battle to persuade their grim electorate that one is crueler than the other,' said one opposition MP.
3 min read
25 July, 2022
Both candidates have embraced the Rwanda policy, while Liz Truss says she will take it further [Getty]

Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, one of whom will become the UK's next prime minister when elected leader of the right-wing party, are putting "illegal migration" at the centre of their electoral platforms, leading to widespread criticism from opposition MPs. 

Both prime minister hopefuls embraced the controversial Rwanda plan, which will see migrants found traveling irregularly to the UK deported to Africa, while Liz Truss vowed to expand the scheme to other African countries. 

Sunak, who trails Truss in all opinion polls, is making a play to win over Conservative Party members with policies that appeal to the traditional right-wing base. 

The party's members are more likely to be male, white British, a Leave voter, middle class and living in the south of England than the general population, according to research by Queen Mary’s, University of London. 

A video by Sunak released on the weekend focused entirely on migration.

"It is essential that anyone considering trying to sneak into Britain knows that their journey will end in Kigali, not King’s Cross," Sunak said in a campaign video launched on Sunday. Experts have said there is no proof the Rwanda plan would stop Channel crossings in small boats.

No new arrivals to the UK have been deported to Rwanda under the scheme, which has been roundly condemned by faith leaders, legal experts and human rights activists. 

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Sunak’s pledges:

"The current chaotic free-for-all is simply no way for a country to run itself," Sunak, whose party has presided over immigration policy for 12 years, said on Sunday.

The ex-Chancellor also sought to deny that the proposals are racist, as he launched his 10-point plan to tackle illegal immigration. 

According to the latest government figures, over 80 percent of all asylum claims made by people who arrived in the UK irregularly in 2021 were approved. 

Arrival by boat has only been made illegal since the UK government passed the controversial Nationality and Borders bill earlier in 2022. 

Truss goes further

"The Rwanda policy is the right policy. I'm determined to see it through to full implementation, as well as exploring other countries that we can work on similar partnerships with. It’s the right thing to do," current foreign secretary Truss told the Mail on Sunday.

"This illegal immigration that we're seeing across the Channel is both unfair and incredibly dangerous, and it is one of my priorities to make sure it is sorted," she continued. 

The Turkish foreign ministry recently rubbished Liz Truss’ suggestion to MPs that she would replicate the Rwanda policy with Turkey

"We hope these claims relating to Ms Truss in the press are unfounded," said a spokesperson for the Turkish foreign ministry last week. 

Widespread criticism

Opposition MPs have been quick to condemn the shrill proposals to 'get tough' on immigration. 

"They're in a battle to persuade their grim electorate that one is crueller than the other. One of these two will be the UK's next PM. What a gruesome prospect,” tweeted John Nicolson MP

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper took aim at both leadership candidates, saying "it is dismal to see Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss competing to extend Priti Patel's failing policies and ramping up the rhetoric against refugees…Britain is better than this".

"The Conservative approach, including these proposed cuts to the National Crime Agency, risks making trafficking and smuggling worse," she said on Sunday. 

Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will take part in a live leadership debate on the BBC tonight, where the issue of migration is expected to feature heavily.