UK Prime Minister Rare Appearance: Rishi Sunak Talks On Immigraton System


He lives! He breathes! For the last couple of months Rishi Sunak has barely been seen. It’s as if he’s been held hostage by Tory party apparatchiks and only allowed out for half an hour once a week to take prime minister’s questions in the Commons. To make sure the damage he can do is strictly limited. His goal no longer to reinvigorate his party but to manage its decline. And even that looks to be beyond him. The latest Savanta opinion poll has the Tories winning just 69 seats at the next election and Rishi losing his.

But on Tuesday lunchtime we were treated to a bonus Sunak appearance. This time to make a statement on proposed changes to the immigration system. For Monday’s urgent question on strikes, almost no Tory backbenchers had bothered to turn up in the chamber. The NHS and the transport system gridlocked, nurses reduced to using food banks, inflation out of control, people having to choose between heating and eating. All this was apparently of little consequence to the Conservatives. Just minor everyday problems that barely affected ordinary people’s lives.

Immigration, on the other hand. Now that was the No 1 issue holding the country back. Stopping people having a decent Christmas. Sort out immigration and the whole country would be back on track. The UK would go rocketing back up the OECD table and the RMT and the RCN would be falling over themselves to agree below-inflation wage settlements. So the Tory benches were rammed. Fuller even than for the three-line whip of PMQs. This was the Conservatives’ last hope of salvation. To out-Ukip Ukip.

There were muted cheers when Rish! got to his feet. Sunak flashed a nervy smile and got to work. Immigration was a complex moral dilemma, he said. But it didn’t have to be. We’d spent far too long trying to balance the claims of genuine asylum seekers against immigrants arriving illegally. And we’d been far too generous. Too lenient. We’d let in way too many foreigners. Hell, even some of the foreigners we had let in thought there were far too many foreigners. Which is why they had gone home after Brexit. And why there were so many vacancies in low-paid industries. But that was another matter.

Rish! wanted everyone to know he could do tough. He might look like a pushover. A tech-bro softy. Someone who just wanted to be liked. But deep down he was steel. He could tell the Tory rightwingers what they wanted to hear. Foreigners, migrants, refugees. Call them what you want. At heart they were just invaders trying to take over the UK.

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