These are embarrassing times to be a Conservative MP. During the Rwanda debate, Therese Coffey lashes out at Yvette Cooper, claiming she “can’t even get the name of the country right, talking about ‘the Kigali government’”. But Kigali, as any fule kno, is Rwanda’s capital, and Coffey is now more of a laughing stock than ever.
On Sky News’ Kay Burley show, immigration minister Michael Tomlinson is asked whether he has watched the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office. In what can be assumed is an attempt to shut down awkward questions about the Post Office scandal, he says that he has not because he prefers watching sport. Asked to name his favourite football team, he says he doesn’t really have one, then offers “Wimborne Town Football Club.” Asked what their last result was, he added: “I couldn’t tell you their last result. But the last result when I was there was very exciting, there were lots of goals, and it was a 1-1 draw.” But a 1-1 draw does not involve lots of goals and Tomlinson is now more of a laughing stock than ever.
In the lobbies, 30p Lee Anderson is waiting to vote against the government over Rwanda. But he’s made fun of by Labour members waiting to register their disapproval too. The straight-talking hard man who doesn’t care what others think is so offended by this that he storms out and abstains from the vote instead. A day earlier, Anderson had resigned as Tory party deputy chairman specifically to vote against the Rwanda bill, and having done so for nothing Anderson is now more of a laughing stock than ever.
Yet Anderson is far from the only Brexiteer to be humiliated over Rwanda. The likes of Suella Braverman, Danny Kruger and Andrea Jenkyns all touted the Rwanda bill’s third reading as a show of strength for the Eurosceptic ‘Five Families’ of the Tory right. Instead, it turned into a show of weakness as rebels melted away and other Tories looked away. Mark Francois is now more of a laughing stock than ever, which really is saying something.
What might have caused this reluctance to stand with the awkward squad of Brussels-bashers who once ran rings around weak incumbents? In a week where Labour’s poll leads have been 20, 14, 22, 17, 19, 17, 16 and 27 points (average 19) it surely can’t be a new-found belief that Rishi Sunak is an election winner. Nor is it that Tory MPs now think Sunak’s Rwanda plan will make a substantial dent in migrant numbers, or even work.
Could it be partly that having so loudly touted the potential benefits of Brexit, Braverman, Jenkyns, Francois, Bill Cash and the rest are now being held to account for those benefits not turning up? To an extent when not even people who think Kigali is a separate country and that 1-1 is a goalfest are stupid enough to side with them?
Meanwhile, channelling the de-limbed Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“‘tis but a scratch!”), the routed rump defiantly say they will follow this abject failure with another attempt to hold little Rishi’s feet to the fire, this time over tax cuts in the budget. The Brexiteers are more of a laughing stock than ever.