Robert Jenrick refuses to rule out running for leadership

Robert Jenrick said time will tell whether he was right to rebel over Rishi Sunak's Rwanda bill
Robert Jenrick said time will tell whether he was right to rebel over Rishi Sunak's Rwanda Bill - David Rose
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Robert Jenrick has refused to rule out running for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

The former immigration minister said there was a path to victory for The Tory party in this year’s general election but it would require the “toughest possible” approach to immigration.

Mr Jenrick spearheaded last week’s rebellion by Tory MPs over Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda Bill by tabling amendments to toughen it up.

He and 10 other rebel Tory MPs who were the only backbenchers to vote against the Bill’s third reading, are being called in on Monday by Simon Hart, the party’s chief whip, to explain their actions.

It comes as the Lords could vote on Monday to back a motion demanding that the Government delays the ratification of its Rwanda treaty until it can show that the country is safe for asylum seekers.

Asked on The Camilla Tominey Show on GB News on Sunday whether he would stand to be Tory leader, Mr Jenrick said: “Well, look, I’m not ruling it out. But that’s not my intention here. What I really want to do is make and hopefully win this central argument for the Conservative Party’s future.

“What I am trying to do is to make an argument and part of that is around illegal migration. I think that for too long, too few politicians have gone and argued that we need to take the most robust action.

“And so if I can help the Conservative Party by making that argument very strongly, then I will do it because I think there is a path to victory at the next General Election. But it goes through taking the strongest possible approach on migration.”

Mr Jenrick’s amendments would have prevented individual migrants from mounting legal challenges against deportation and blocked injunctions by Strasbourg judges to stop flights but, with both the Government and Labour opposing, failed despite being backed by 60 Tory rebels.

The Bill, itself, was passed by 320 votes to 276 after just 11 Tories voted against the Third Reading. Most rebels backed off voting against it amid warnings it would become a confidence issue and could topple Mr Sunak.

In the aftermath, only one MP – Dame Andrea Jenkyns – has publicly admitted to submitting a no-confidence letter to Sir Graham Brady, the backbench 1922 Committee chairman, although it is claimed there may be as many as 29 who have done so.

Mr Jenrick said: “I chose to vote against the Bill because I felt that it’s a weak Bill that ultimately won’t work. And we will have to see now if in August there are still small boats crossing the Channel, then it will be shown that my argument was right, the Government’s was wrong.

“But I hope, of course, that the Prime Minister is successful because I want to see the small boats stop. I think this is doing immense damage. Think of the hotels, the billions of pounds wasted, the people who are dying in the Channel, the people smugglers are feasting on this appalling trade.

“I want to see the small boats stop. I believe that the way to do that is through the most robust action, and that view is formed having travelled around the world, having seen that the only countries in the world that have fixed this problem. Australia and Greece in recent years chose to take the hardest path.

“That’s what I was proposing. The Prime Minister ultimately wanted to do it in a different way.”

On Sunday Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, acknowledged that the Rwanda deportation plan was the only way to achieve Mr Sunak’s pledge to stop the boats rather than simply reducing numbers.

“It’s time to, you know, stop the boats and essentially send the planes, because there isn’t another way again to solve this, and I just have to say, I appeal to Keir Starmer and Labour to stop frustrating and blocking Conservative efforts to stop these boats from coming,” he said.

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