Sunak has got days to save his premiership – and one MP will decide his fate

James Cleverly outlines his migration plan

Rishi Sunak has just days to save his premiership and prevent a leadership vote of confidence, Tory MPs are warning.

Emergency legislation to allow the deportation flights of illegal migrants to Rwanda is now expected next week and the Prime Minister is facing an ultimatum from the Right of his party.

They have made it clear that unless the legislation meets their demands, he will face resignations from his government and letters will be submitted to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers asking for a leadership vote of confidence.

Mr Sunak is being pressed to eliminate the legal effects of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), Refugee Convention and other treaties, as well as include a clause enforcing the sovereignty of Parliament over the courts and individual claims.

Powerful groups on the Right – the Common Sense Group (CSG), New Conservatives (NC) and European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers – have met twice this week on Monday and Tuesday to fine-tune their demands.

But crucial to the Prime Minister’s fate is immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who many believe is set to resign if the Prime Minister bows to pressure from the Left of his party to water the Rwanda Bill down.

The legislation is needed to deal with the Supreme Court’s decision to block the deportation flights to the East African country just two days after Mr Sunak sacked Suella Braverman as Home Secretary in an apparent signal that he opposed her hardline approach of leaving the ECHR.

It is understood that Mr Jenrick has “been in daily talks” with Mrs Braverman, his former boss, and other senior figures on the Right and is “pushing for the toughest possible Bill”.

One senior Tory MP told “Robert has played a blinder. His threat to resign is what got the Government to publish its changes to legal migration [on Monday] after they had been delayed by Downing Street for months.”

Mr Jenrick “had a hero’s welcome”, according to one MP, when he arrived at the meeting of Right-wing MPs on Monday night, but the danger of him resigning has not gone away.

One senior Tory MP said: “Basically, some time in the next 48 hours, the Prime Minister has to choose between Jenrick’s version or the watered-down version from the Attorney General [Victoria Prentis].

“If it is the wet version then Jenrick will probably resign, that will have a cascading effect and others may follow him, letters will go in, and we will have a vote of confidence in the leader.”

The decision has been so difficult that the publication date of the legislation is now likely to be postponed to next week after some drama.

Until 4pm today (Tuesday) it was due to be published tomorrow or Thursday.

One MP said that Parliament “has been bedlam today” with the chaos around the legislation and plotting.

Another warned: “We will not be bounced into supporting the Bill.”

And the meeting tonight with the ERG and others agreed the conditions that will need to be met, specifically “whether the Bill fully respects parliamentary sovereignty, with unambiguous wording, which would facilitate flights to Rwanda”.

There has been a tacit threat from Downing Street that if there is a leadership vote then an election could be called, but MPs have already discounted this.

One said: “The talk of an early election is just a tactic to scare people, it won’t work. What Prime Minister would hold an election where the polls are so bad he might lose his own seat?”

However, if Mr Sunak does go with Mr Jenrick’s advice, one leading figure on the Right concluded: “There will not be a leadership vote because he will have appeased the Right.

“Rwanda is the trigger issue or nothing is.”

But the MP warned that “this will also require the Prime Minister not to give in to attempts by the Lords to water it down”.

Meanwhile, discipline among Tory MPs is breaking down.

The Government suffered major rebellions on Monday night over contaminated blood and a mandate for electric vehicles.

More rebellions are coming on plans to scrap prison sentences below 12 months and raise the age of smoking every year.

One senior MP said: “Sunak will probably need Labour votes to get his sentencing Bill over the line, which will be very embarrassing.”

Mr Sunak was trying to woo unhappy Red Wall MPs from the North and the Midlands by inviting them to Downing Street with constituents.

But the plotting goes on.

Mrs Braverman is understood to be holding dozens of meetings with potential allies and supporters, as well as groups, to ready herself for a leadership election as the candidate of the right.

It is expected that Mr Jenrick, were he to resign, would endorse her.

One MP said: “The irony is that Robert was put in the Home Office by Sunak to control Suella.

“He was one of Sunak’s closest political friends. But Robert has been on a journey to the Right and being in the Home Office and seeing how it operates has radicalised him on these issues.

“He is firmly with Suella now.”

The Government also hoped that changing the rules on legal migration after two years of record figures would help see off a rebellion.

But one senior MP, who is publicly backing Mr Sunak, was privately furious.

The MP said: “He’s thrown us some red meat but let’s see how quickly he puts it into action. The problem is this should have been done a year or more ago.”

Allies of Dame Priti Patel, another possible leadership candidate, have said she is privately furious because she had tried to push through a similar package two years ago when she was Home Secretary but was blocked by the Treasury when Mr Sunak was Chancellor.

An ally of hers said: “Sunak is creating unrealistic expectations which are not credible because he blocked all these measures two years ago.

“They are trying to present this as new while denying their previous actions. This is too little too late and they know it. It’s an appeasement policy to shut up the MPs.”

The one senior figure backing Mr Sunak behind the scenes is Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

One MP said: “They seem to have deployed Kemi because she is going around too colleagues telling them not to do anything ‘impetuous’.

“I am not sure it is working.”

Another Tory MP at the heart of the talks warned that “colleagues are just not listening now”.

The MP added: “The reshuffle really broke trust in the party.”

The appointment of James Cleverly as Home Secretary has also not helped.

A meeting he held in his office a couple of days after taking the job was described as “amateur hour”.

One MP who was there noted: “Cleverly did not sound very cleverly at all. He did not know what he was talking about, and the office was filled with MPs who knew more than him.

“His speech was like a third-rate constituency stump speech punctuated with about 20 uses of the F-word. It did not go down well, and he has done nothing to give us more confidence in him since.”

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