Rishi Sunak defends Rwanda asylum policy as Tory split deepens – UK politics live | Politics

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Sunak says Rwanda bill will make prospect of courts blocking any deportation decision ‘vanishingly rare’

Sunak says he did not agree with the supreme court’s judgment, but he respects it.

The bill will address the concerns it has. The supreme court was commenting on conditions in Rwanda 18 months ago, he says.

The bill includes notwithstanding clauses. This means people will not be able to use domestic law to challenge decisions to deport them.

He lists a series of reasons migrants might try to use to challenge a decision to deport them. They have all been blocked.

He says the only challenge that might be allowed would be if someone could prove, with credible evidence, that they were at real risk of harm if they were sent abroad.

He says without this provision, Rwanda would not have agreed to the scheme. And in that case the scheme would have collapsed.

He says this is an “extremely narrow” exception. It means the prospect of a challenge succeeding will be “vanishingly rare”.

(This is the point Chris Heaton-Harris was making this morning – see 10.40am.)

Q: [From the Daily Mail] Jenrick said this bill was a triumph of hope over experience. He is right, isn’t he? It is not going to work.

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Sunak does not accept that. He says he is delivering on immigration. He is “entirely confident” about this, he says. He has worked through it with multiple lawyers. This is the toughest legislation on this decision.

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He stresses, again, that the bill contains a notwithstanding clause.

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He claims the bill blocks every avenue used in the past to obstruct deportations.

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He says the difference between him and his Tory critics is only “an inch”. But that inch of difference is what ensures Rwanda still backs the scheme, he says.

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Q: You have lost control of your party. Will you call an election if you lose these votes?

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Sunak says small-boat numbers are down by a third. Legal enforcement raids are up. Thousands of migrants in the country illegally have had their bank accounts closed. What is happening is “ridiculous”, he says. He says he wants to finish the job. This is a top priority for the country. He is focused on delivering.

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Q: What if you lose?

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Sunak says he is confident that he can win the vote. He wants this bill on the statute book in record time.

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He claims his track record shows he can get things done.

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If Labour “get the values of the British people”, they will vote for the bill, he says.

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Sunak says he did not agree with the supreme court’s judgment, but he respects it.

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The bill will address the concerns it has. The supreme court was commenting on conditions in Rwanda 18 months ago, he says.

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The bill includes notwithstanding clauses. This means people will not be able to use domestic law to challenge decisions to deport them.

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He lists a series of reasons migrants might try to use to challenge a decision to deport them. They have all been blocked.

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He says the only challenge that might be allowed would be if someone could prove, with credible evidence, that they were at real risk of harm if they were sent abroad.

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He says without this provision, Rwanda would not have agreed to the scheme. And in that case the scheme would have collapsed.

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He says this is an “extremely narrow” exception. It means the prospect of a challenge succeeding will be “vanishingly rare”.

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(This is the point Chris Heaton-Harris was making this morning – see 10.40am.)

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Rishi Sunak says he is holding this press conference to explain why the government is publishing its Rwanda bill.

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He says he is the child of immigrants. He understands why people want to come to the UK.

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But his parents came here legally, he says.

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If people are allowed to come to the UK illegally, that will destroy people’s trust in the system, he says.

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Michael Tomlinson has been appointed to replace Robert Jenrick as immigration minister, No 10 has announced. Tomlinson was the solicitor general. He will be a minister of state at the Home Office, with the official title of “minister for illegal migration”, and he will attend cabinet.

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Tom Pursglove, who was the minister for disabled people, has also been moved to the Home Office, as “minister for legal migration and delivery”.

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And Robert Courts has been promoted to replace Tomlinson as solicitor general. He was the chair of the defence committee, but will have to stand down.

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These appointments are likely to go down well with the Tory right. Tomlinson is a former deputy chair of the European Research Group, and Pursglove is a vocal Brexiter.

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In her Today programme interview this morning Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, said she was opposed to the Rwanda bill published yesterday because it would allow asylum seekers to use the courts to challenge the decision to remove them. She said the bill would allow “a whole raft of individual claims to be made by people that we might seek to remove to Rwanda” and that these legal challenges could take months or years.

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But in his interviews this morning Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, claimed the bill would only allow legal challenges in rare circumstances. He told GB News:

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You’ll be really having to go some way to be able to prove that you’ll be in immediate harm or danger if you went to Rwanda to be pulled off a flight. I think the chances of that are … vanishingly small.

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And on BBC Breakfast, Heaton-Harris said these legal challenges would only happen in a “very, very small number of matters, like misidentification”.

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Rishi Sunak will be holding a press conference at 11am, No 10 has announced.

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We’ll have a live stream of it in the blog shortly before 11. You may need to refresh the page to see it.

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Rishi Sunak will give evidence to the Covid inquiry for most of Monday, the inquiry has announced. He is scheduled to appear in the morning, starting at 10.30am, and again for a session in the afternoon. He will be asked about his time as chancellor during the pandemic, and he is the last witness scheduled to appear before the inquiry hears closing statements from lawyers later next week at the end of module two, which has been looking at “decision making and political governance”.

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Here are the main lines from Suella Braverman’s interview on the Today programme.

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  • Braverman, the former home secretary, claimed that she was not actively plotting to bring down Rishi Sunak as Tory leader and she claimed she hoped he would lead the party into the next election. (See 9.14am.) She said:

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I want the prime minister to succeed in stopping the boats. He said he would do whatever it takes. I’m telling him there is a way to succeed in stopping the boats and fulfilling that promise.

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If we do it, if he does it as prime minister, he will be able to lead us into the next election telling the people we have succeeded on this very important pledge.

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  • She rejected claims the Conservative party had a “death wish”.

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  • She said the Rwanda bill published yesterday would not work. She explained:

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There are elements that should be welcomed in this new bill that the prime minister has presented.

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But taken as a whole and looking at the reality of the challenges that are involved in detaining people, removing people and getting them to Rwanda – this is a very litigious field and there are lots of legal frameworks that apply – the reality is and the sorry truth is that it won’t work and it will not stop the boats.

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  • She said the bill needed to be changed “to totally exclude international law – the refugee convention, other broader avenues of legal challenge”.

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  • She defended her habit of making controversial and provocative statements. She said:

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The truth is that when I served as home secretary I sought to be honest; honest to the British people, honest for the British people, and sometimes honesty is uncomfortable.

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But I’m not going to shy away from telling people how it is and from plain speaking, and if that upsets polite society then I’m sorry about that.

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But the point is that we need to be honest, we need to be clear-eyed about the situation right now.

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We can’t keep failing the British people. We have made promise after promise [on immigration]. We have put forward plan after plan. They have all failed. And we have now run out of time.

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Good morning. Boris Johnson is back at the Covid inquiry later this morning and, although yesterday was tough, today is likely to be even more challenging for him. He is expected to face questions on why he ignored calls from scientists for a second lockdown for weeks, why he repeatedly made comments in public suggesting he would be happy to see old people die if that was necessary to keep the economy open, and why he allowed Partygate.

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But if you think Johnson v Hugo Keith KC will be the best example today of a senior Tory giving implausible answers in response to hostile questioning, you probably weren’t listening to Suella Braverman being interviewed by Nick Robinson on the Today programme right now.

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Although the two stories are separate, they are not unrelated. Support for the Conservative party crashed as a direct result of Johnson’s leadership, and Partygate, both of which are being investigated by the inquiry. And if the Tories were not 20 points behind in the polls, it is hard to believe that their MPs would be at war with each other with such hostility.

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In her Today interview, Braverman’s biggest whopper came when she was asked if she thought Rishi Sunak should remain Conservative leader if he did not change his Rwanda policy. Braverman replied:

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No one’s talking about leadership, or changing leadership.

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Robinson replied: “That’s nonsense, and you know it’s nonsense.” He said Tory MPs were talking about a leadership challenge, and that Braverman had held meetings to discuss this herself.

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But that wasn’t even Robinson’s most hostile intervention. That came when he put it to Braverman that she was “a headline-grabber who does it by spreading poison, even within your own party”. In response, Braverman said she “sought to be honest”, and that honesty involved saying uncomfortable things.

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Braverman’s main argument was the one she also made yesterday in her personal statement to the Commons – that the Rwanda plan drawn up by Sunak did not go far enough.

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She also denied wanting to bring down Sunak. She claimed that she wanted him to succeed, and that she hoped he would lead the party into the next election.

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Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, was also interviewed on LBC this morning. Asked about the prospect of Sunak facing a leadership challenge, he replied:

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I think it’s highly unlikely, very unlikely. I’d say vanishingly small.

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At this point it is very hard to tell how the Tory crisis will unfold. For Sunak to face a confidence vote, 53 Conservative MPs would have to write to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, requesting one. This seems unlikely before Christmas, but this time yesterday no one was even talking about this seriously as a potential outcome. Now it is conceivable.

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Here is the agenda for the day.

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10am: Boris Johnson resumes giving evidence to the Covid inquiry.

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10.10am: Victoria Prentis, the attorney general, takes questions in the Commons.

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11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

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If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest

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Key events

Q: [From GB News] We have been to Calais and found people smugglers are laughing at the UK’s Rwanda policy. Are they entitled to do that?

Sunak says, look at the results. Crossings this year are down by a third. And many people have been arrested. He says 22,000 people have been returned. So what they are doing is making a difference, he says.

Cooperation with the French is working, he says.

He talks about barriers being erected in French rivers stopping boats getting to the coast.

He is confident that this will work, he says. And it is the only approach that would work, he says.

He repeats his call for Labour to support the bill.

And that’s it.

Q: [From the Sun] If no flight leaves to Rwanda before the election, are voters entitled to say they no longer trust you?

Sunak gives a list of areas where he claims he has delivered. The British people will get to decide. He is confident that the British people will see that, he says.

Sunak claims he and Tory critics of bill only ‘inch’ apart – but that if he makes it even tougher, Rwanda will pull out

Q: [From the Daily Mail] Jenrick said this bill was a triumph of hope over experience. He is right, isn’t he? It is not going to work.

Sunak does not accept that. He says he is delivering on immigration. He is “entirely confident” about this, he says. He has worked through it with multiple lawyers. This is the toughest legislation on this decision.

He stresses, again, that the bill contains a notwithstanding clause.

He claims the bill blocks every avenue used in the past to obstruct deportations.

He says the difference between him and his Tory critics is only “an inch”. But that inch of difference is what ensures Rwanda still backs the scheme, he says.

Sunak claims if Labour oppose Rwanda bill, that means they don’t ‘get values of British people’

Q: You have lost control of your party. Will you call an election if you lose these votes?

Sunak says small-boat numbers are down by a third. Legal enforcement raids are up. Thousands of migrants in the country illegally have had their bank accounts closed. What is happening is “ridiculous”, he says. He says he wants to finish the job. This is a top priority for the country. He is focused on delivering.

Q: What if you lose?

Sunak says he is confident that he can win the vote. He wants this bill on the statute book in record time.

He claims his track record shows he can get things done.

If Labour “get the values of the British people”, they will vote for the bill, he says.

Q: Will you treat next week’s vote as a confidence vote?

Sunak says the real question about next week is for the Labour party. He says he has a plan. But Labour doesn’t have one. The real question is, what will Labour do.

(Pat McFadden, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, confirmed this morning that Labour will oppose it.)

Sunak is now taking questions.

Q: Are you saying to your MPs back me or sack me?

Sunak says he is saying to the country his patience is running thin. They have to end the legal merry-go-round and get deportations to Rwanda up and running.

What is happening is “patently unfair”, he says.

Sunak says Rwanda bill will make prospect of courts blocking any deportation decision ‘vanishingly rare’

Sunak says he did not agree with the supreme court’s judgment, but he respects it.

The bill will address the concerns it has. The supreme court was commenting on conditions in Rwanda 18 months ago, he says.

The bill includes notwithstanding clauses. This means people will not be able to use domestic law to challenge decisions to deport them.

He lists a series of reasons migrants might try to use to challenge a decision to deport them. They have all been blocked.

He says the only challenge that might be allowed would be if someone could prove, with credible evidence, that they were at real risk of harm if they were sent abroad.

He says without this provision, Rwanda would not have agreed to the scheme. And in that case the scheme would have collapsed.

He says this is an “extremely narrow” exception. It means the prospect of a challenge succeeding will be “vanishingly rare”.

(This is the point Chris Heaton-Harris was making this morning – see 10.40am.)

Rishi Sunak holds press conference

Rishi Sunak says he is holding this press conference to explain why the government is publishing its Rwanda bill.

He says he is the child of immigrants. He understands why people want to come to the UK.

But his parents came here legally, he says.

If people are allowed to come to the UK illegally, that will destroy people’s trust in the system, he says.

Michael Tomlinson appointed to replace Jenrick as immigration minister

Michael Tomlinson has been appointed to replace Robert Jenrick as immigration minister, No 10 has announced. Tomlinson was the solicitor general. He will be a minister of state at the Home Office, with the official title of “minister for illegal migration”, and he will attend cabinet.

Tom Pursglove, who was the minister for disabled people, has also been moved to the Home Office, as “minister for legal migration and delivery”.

And Robert Courts has been promoted to replace Tomlinson as solicitor general. He was the chair of the defence committee, but will have to stand down.

These appointments are likely to go down well with the Tory right. Tomlinson is a former deputy chair of the European Research Group, and Pursglove is a vocal Brexiter.

Legal challenges against deportation under Rwanda bill only possible in ‘vanishingly small’ number of cases, minister claims

In her Today programme interview this morning Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, said she was opposed to the Rwanda bill published yesterday because it would allow asylum seekers to use the courts to challenge the decision to remove them. She said the bill would allow “a whole raft of individual claims to be made by people that we might seek to remove to Rwanda” and that these legal challenges could take months or years.

But in his interviews this morning Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, claimed the bill would only allow legal challenges in rare circumstances. He told GB News:

You’ll be really having to go some way to be able to prove that you’ll be in immediate harm or danger if you went to Rwanda to be pulled off a flight. I think the chances of that are … vanishingly small.

And on BBC Breakfast, Heaton-Harris said these legal challenges would only happen in a “very, very small number of matters, like misidentification”.

In his LBC interview this morning Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, played down the significance of Robert Jenrick’s resignation last night as immigration minister over the Rwanda bill. He said:

I don’t think it’s as big a story as is being made.

I generally don’t like anybody resigning from my party … [but] when I was Boris’s chief whip pretty much everybody did, so maybe I have a sense of scale and proportion that others don’t.

Sunak to hold press conference at 11am

Rishi Sunak will be holding a press conference at 11am, No 10 has announced.

We’ll have a live stream of it in the blog shortly before 11. You may need to refresh the page to see it.

Rishi Sunak to give evidence to Covid inquiry for most of Monday, inquiry says

Rishi Sunak will give evidence to the Covid inquiry for most of Monday, the inquiry has announced. He is scheduled to appear in the morning, starting at 10.30am, and again for a session in the afternoon. He will be asked about his time as chancellor during the pandemic, and he is the last witness scheduled to appear before the inquiry hears closing statements from lawyers later next week at the end of module two, which has been looking at “decision making and political governance”.

With so much happening today, I’ll be covering the crisis in the Conservative party, and other Westminster political stories, here. And my colleague Sammy Gecsoyler will be covering Boris Johnson at the Covid inquiry on a separate live blog here.

Suella Braverman rejects claim she is plotting to bring down Rishi Sunak

Here are the main lines from Suella Braverman’s interview on the Today programme.

  • Braverman, the former home secretary, claimed that she was not actively plotting to bring down Rishi Sunak as Tory leader and she claimed she hoped he would lead the party into the next election. (See 9.14am.) She said:

I want the prime minister to succeed in stopping the boats. He said he would do whatever it takes. I’m telling him there is a way to succeed in stopping the boats and fulfilling that promise.

If we do it, if he does it as prime minister, he will be able to lead us into the next election telling the people we have succeeded on this very important pledge.

There are elements that should be welcomed in this new bill that the prime minister has presented.

But taken as a whole and looking at the reality of the challenges that are involved in detaining people, removing people and getting them to Rwanda – this is a very litigious field and there are lots of legal frameworks that apply – the reality is and the sorry truth is that it won’t work and it will not stop the boats.

The truth is that when I served as home secretary I sought to be honest; honest to the British people, honest for the British people, and sometimes honesty is uncomfortable.

But I’m not going to shy away from telling people how it is and from plain speaking, and if that upsets polite society then I’m sorry about that.

But the point is that we need to be honest, we need to be clear-eyed about the situation right now.

We can’t keep failing the British people. We have made promise after promise [on immigration]. We have put forward plan after plan. They have all failed. And we have now run out of time.

Suella Braverman confronted by Nick Robinson on controversial comments – audio

Kevin Schofield from HuffPost has posted on X the text of Nick Robinson’s “spreading poison” question to Suella Braverman in full.

That Nick Robinson monologue to Suella Braverman was quite something … pic.twitter.com/8zhjxaNalC

— Kevin Schofield (@KevinASchofield) December 7, 2023

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Cabinet minister claims leadership challenge to Sunak ‘highly unlikely’ as Tory crisis escalates

Good morning. Boris Johnson is back at the Covid inquiry later this morning and, although yesterday was tough, today is likely to be even more challenging for him. He is expected to face questions on why he ignored calls from scientists for a second lockdown for weeks, why he repeatedly made comments in public suggesting he would be happy to see old people die if that was necessary to keep the economy open, and why he allowed Partygate.

But if you think Johnson v Hugo Keith KC will be the best example today of a senior Tory giving implausible answers in response to hostile questioning, you probably weren’t listening to Suella Braverman being interviewed by Nick Robinson on the Today programme right now.

Although the two stories are separate, they are not unrelated. Support for the Conservative party crashed as a direct result of Johnson’s leadership, and Partygate, both of which are being investigated by the inquiry. And if the Tories were not 20 points behind in the polls, it is hard to believe that their MPs would be at war with each other with such hostility.

In her Today interview, Braverman’s biggest whopper came when she was asked if she thought Rishi Sunak should remain Conservative leader if he did not change his Rwanda policy. Braverman replied:

No one’s talking about leadership, or changing leadership.

Robinson replied: “That’s nonsense, and you know it’s nonsense.” He said Tory MPs were talking about a leadership challenge, and that Braverman had held meetings to discuss this herself.

But that wasn’t even Robinson’s most hostile intervention. That came when he put it to Braverman that she was “a headline-grabber who does it by spreading poison, even within your own party”. In response, Braverman said she “sought to be honest”, and that honesty involved saying uncomfortable things.

Braverman’s main argument was the one she also made yesterday in her personal statement to the Commons – that the Rwanda plan drawn up by Sunak did not go far enough.

She also denied wanting to bring down Sunak. She claimed that she wanted him to succeed, and that she hoped he would lead the party into the next election.

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, was also interviewed on LBC this morning. Asked about the prospect of Sunak facing a leadership challenge, he replied:

I think it’s highly unlikely, very unlikely. I’d say vanishingly small.

At this point it is very hard to tell how the Tory crisis will unfold. For Sunak to face a confidence vote, 53 Conservative MPs would have to write to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, requesting one. This seems unlikely before Christmas, but this time yesterday no one was even talking about this seriously as a potential outcome. Now it is conceivable.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Boris Johnson resumes giving evidence to the Covid inquiry.

10.10am: Victoria Prentis, the attorney general, takes questions in the Commons.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest

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