Stark poll shows Tory turnaround rests on gripping immigration
Meg Hillier grills Sunak on Rwanda spending
Rishi Sunak prides himself on mastering the detail. That is how he aims to deal with hostile questions smoothly and to get the better of his critics, whether they are lawyers at the Covid Inquiry or his fellow MPs.
The Prime Minister had done his homework before facing Parliament’s inquisitorial supergroup – the Liaison Committee – yesterday. But the two roughest moments came when MPs asked him about his plans to get a grip on immigration.
Dame Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, went after Mr Sunak on the cost of the Rwanda scheme and repeatedly scoffed at his attempts to deflect answers by insisting plans were commercially sensitive.
Meanwhile, Dame Diana Johnson took him to task over what he needed to do to stop the boats by getting his chief deterrent working of flying illegal arrivals out to Kigali.
Mr Sunak insisted progress had been made but there was no set date when he hoped to have stopped the boats by. As he put it: “There isn’t a firm date on this because I have always been clear from the beginning.”
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The Prime Minister is certainly clearer than before, such as when he delivered a speech in March warning those who “come on a small boat today” that future legislation meant they would be removed in weeks and never get to stay.
However, the public’s patience for Tory promises on immigration appears to be wearing thin.
The latest polling by YouGov, as highlighted by Professor Will Jennings, suggests voters’ confidence is at an all-time low. It is now over half as much as where it was just a few years ago.
The collapse in support means voters are now more confident in Labour’s ability to control our borders than the Tories.
How has this come to happen? Recent record net migration numbers have inevitably shaken public confidence.
Mr Sunak’s valiant struggle to make Rwanda work will remind voters that they have to wait longer for meaningful change.
Some argue that the Prime Minister has compounded this problem by making such a noise about his fight to stop the boats, only drawing attention to the limited progress.
What is inarguable is that the Tories have no hope of turning things around in the polls unless they can convince voters to trust them again on immigration.
MPs and the public have noticed Mr Sunak’s struggle on the issue. Next year, he has to prove the doubters wrong.
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