Rishi Sunak hit by fresh blow ahead of Rwanda vote as 80% of people say Tories doing badly on immigration

Rishi Sunak hit by fresh blow ahead of Rwanda vote as 80% of people say Tories doing badly on immigration

Rishi Sunak's government has seen its public ratings on managing immigration hit a new low as his MPs wage war over his controversial Rwanda plan, a poll revealed on Tuesday.

The Ipsos UK survey for the Evening Standard found that 79 per cent of Britons, including three-quarters of Tory supporters, believe ministers are doing a bad job on immigration, the highest since this question was first asked by the pollster two years ago.

Just one in 10 say the Government is doing a good job, also a recent low, after net legal migration rose to a record 745,000 last year and it was left scrambling to salvage its Rwanda deportation scheme after it was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. But there is little belief that Labour would do a better job.

Just 24 per cent of adults believe Sir Keir Starmer’s party would do so (down five points since July), 26 a worse job and 40 per cent “about the same”.

Amid the turmoil, and ongoing cost-of-living crisis, Mr Sunak’s personal ratings as Prime Minister have also fallen to their worst level.

Sixty-nine per cent say they are dissatisfied with him, up three points since November, with satisfied unchanged on 21 per cent.

Among Tory supporters, 52 per cent are satisfied with the PM, down ten points on last month, and 41 per cent dissatisfied, up 11 points.

But support for Labour has fallen to its lowest since September 2022, as the party has faced a backlash over its refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Labour is on 41 per cent, down five points, the Conservatives 24 per cent, down one point, the Liberal Democrats 13 per cent, up one point, Greens nine per cent, up three points, and Reform UK seven per cent, also up three points.

Sir Keir’s personal ratings are little changed, with 30 per cent satisfied (up one point), 51 per cent dissatisfied (up one point), with 53 per cent of Labour supporters content (down one point).

Today's Evening Standard front page (Evening Standard)
Today's Evening Standard front page (Evening Standard)

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos UK, said: “The issue of immigration and asylum has risen up the public agenda compared to last year, particularly for the Conservatives’ own supporters.

"Control is important to the public on immigration, and their views are more nuanced under the surface, but the Prime Minister needs to show he is taking charge of this issue.”

Mr Sunak this morning held breakfast talks in No10 with Tory Rightwingers who were threatening to vote against or abstain on the 2nd Reading stage of his Rwanda bill.

But he rejected calls from some hardliners to pull the controversial legislation which aims to address the issues raised by the Supreme Court and stop future legal challenges to thwart deportation flights.

Senior members of the European Research Group, a group of Tory Rightwingers, had called for the bill to be withdrawn.

David Jones, ERG deputy chairman, told Times Radio: “We believe we have the numbers, if necessary, to stop the bill progressing.”

Other MPs at the breakfast meeting were Tory Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, as well as Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, co-founders of the Right-Wing New Conservatives group.

Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Lee Anderson, leaves Downing Street following a breakfast hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Getty Images)
Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Lee Anderson, leaves Downing Street following a breakfast hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Getty Images)

Labour was going to vote against the bill which human rights group Amnesty International branded an “outrageous attack on the very concept of universal human rights”.

The bill allows ministers to disapply some parts of the Human Rights Act regarding deportation flights to Rwanda, restricting possible legal challenges, but does not go as far as overriding the European Convention on Human Rights.

It also declares that the East African country is a “safe” place to send asylum seekers and economic migrants who arrive in the UK by “small boats” after a new treaty was signed with Kigali and other changes.

Just weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled Rwanda was not a “safe” country for the UK’s plan given risks that some asylum seekers could be deported to the country they had orginally fled, even if they could face torture or even death.

The New Conservatives, a group of some 40 Tory MPs, insisted after a meeting last night at the office of backbencher Mr Kruger and attended by former ministers Robert Jenrick and Suella Braverman, that the Bill “needs major surgery or replacement”.

But the One Nation moderates, numbering around 100 MPs, said that they would recommend backing the bill but warned that its MPs would oppose any amendments that would risk the UK breaching the rule of law and its international obligations.

Ministers were holding frantic talks with potential rebels as the clock ticked towards the vote this evening.

No Government legislation since the Shops Bill in 1986 has fallen at Second Reading, but if all Labour and other opposition party MPs vote against it, a revolt by 29 Tories would be enough to defeat it.

*Ipsos UK interviewed 1,008 adults in Britain by phone between December 1 and 7. Data are weighted. More information at www.ipsos.com/en-uk