Why a July election plays into Rishi Sunak's Rwanda plan

"Stop the boats" has become one of the phrases we hear most from this government.

The pledge to stop asylum seekers crossing the English Channel has become central to Rishi Sunak's premiership.

And the Rwanda policy has been the government's big idea.

At vast expense and despite numerous legal challenges, the first flights are on track to take off within weeks, according to Home Secretary James Cleverly.

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Yet since the Rwanda Bill became law, there has been no sign that the numbers crossing the Channel are falling.

In fact, record numbers continue to make the perilous journey.

That makes waiting until the autumn too risky for No 10.

What if, by then, regular flights to Rwanda are taking off, but small boat arrival numbers still haven't fallen?

Ministers would face the accusation that their central policy on curbing illegal migration had failed. It's hard to see how they could persuade the public otherwise.

A July election, the government will hope, will hit a sweet spot.

If all goes to plan by then, the first flight to Rwanda will have taken off, but it'll be too early to tell if the boats are stopping as a result.

Last week, the home secretary posted a video on social media announcing that failed asylum seekers were now being detained for Rwanda.

It seemed odd at the time, as the enforced removal scheme only applies to people who have not yet had an asylum decision.

But now - with an election looming - it makes sense.

Failed asylum seekers are already eligible for a voluntary removal scheme, which involves them being offered up to £3,000 to relocate to the East African country.

It's separate from the main Rwanda plan.

So why the announcement from Mr Cleverly? If more failed asylum seekers do agree to be on board the first flights, it will boost the numbers. More people being sent to Rwanda; a fudge of two separate schemes. But would that matter to voters?

Whoever wins the election will also have to deal with the growing number of migrants in permanent limbo.

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The consequence of the government's Illegal Migration Act that passed last summer is that anyone who arrives on a small boat cannot apply for asylum here in the UK.

They've entered a system for which the only exit is a flight to Rwanda. There are tens of thousands of people in this position, many in accommodation paid for by the taxpayer.

If the numbers flown to Rwanda are relatively small in the first few months, questions will be asked.

Another reason for an early election.