Labour in CHAOS over Rwanda migrant flights policy

Labour in CHAOS over Rwanda migrant flights policy as Keir Starmer’s team repeatedly refuses to say party would axe them – while shadow minister Yvette Cooper was telling MPs the scheme was ‘putting our country to shame’

  • Yvette Cooper branded policy  ‘Government by gimmick’ in the Commons 
  • But spokesman for Keir Starmer refused to confirm Labour would scrap policy
  • Ms Patel today vowed that Rwanda flights will take off within weeks 

Labour was mired in chaos of its own over Rwanda migrant flights today after the party leadership refused to commit to banning them while a frontbencher was telling MPs how bad the scheme was.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branded the policy of flying asylum seekers to east Africa ‘Government by gimmick’ in the Commons this afternoon.

She told MPs it was a ‘shambles that is putting our country to shame’ after the European Court of Human Rights last night blocked an attempt by Priti Patel and Boris Johnson to send the first flight to Kigali.  

But while Ms Cooper was on her feet, a spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer repeatedly refused to confirm it would scrap the hardline policy if the party won the next election.

Asked if the party would abandon the scheme if it defeated its legal challenges, he told reporters: ‘What we have said is that the policy isn’t delivering the results the government claimed it would, and for all the statements that are being made by the government they have only got themselves to blame if this policy isn’t achieving the outcomes they want.’

Asked if Sir Keir believed the plan was morally wrong the spokesman added: ‘Let’s wait and see how long this policy lasts for because we still don’t know what situation we are going to be in with it.’

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branded the policy of flying asylum seekers to east Africa ‘Government by gimmick’ in the Commons this afternoon.

But while Ms Cooper was on her feet, a spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer repeatedly refused to confirm it would scrap the hardline policy if the party won the next election.

Around 150 more people were brought ashore in Dover on Wednesday as low winds create ideal weather conditions for Channel crossing attempts.

Ms Patel today vowed that Rwanda flights will take off within weeks as Cabinet ministers urged her to ignore Strasbourg judges who blocked the plans at the eleventh hour.

Around 150 more people were brought ashore in Dover on Wednesday as low winds create ideal weather conditions for Channel crossing attempts.

So far, approximately 146 people including around 28 children have been rescued from small boats in the Channel and brought in to the Kent port.

Border Force ships Typhoon and Vigilant have brought rescued migrants into Dover, where they are then put on buses and sent to processing centres.

However, Border Force and RNLI ship activity suggests there may have been further rescues bringing migrants into Ramsgate or Dungeness.

With crossings going on well into the night on Tuesday, it is likely there are more crossings to come and this number will increase when the Ministry of Defence releases the official figures on Thursday.

The majority of people brought ashore in Dover on Wednesday were men aged from their late teens to their 30s or 40s but there were also a number of women and young children.

Ms Patel today vowed that Rwanda flights will take off within weeks as Cabinet ministers urged her to ignore Strasbourg judges who blocked the plans at the eleventh hour.

Colleagues suggested the views of the European Court of Human Rights should simply be disregarded as the Home Secretary made a defiant statement to MPs insisting the government is still ‘committed’ to the controversial policy.

Ms Patel said the European Court of Human Rights intervention had been ‘surprising’ and ‘disappointing’ as well as slamming the ‘opaque nature’ of the ruling – but stressed that it had not ruled the proposals were illegal. She insisted the ‘usual suspects’ and ‘mobs’ could not be allowed to dictate.

The bullish stance came as Tories vented fury at the ECHR, with one MP saying the UK should now ‘kick these b***ards into touch’.

Responding to Ms Patel in the Commons today, Ms Cooper said: ‘She’s so badly failing to take those basic decisions, she is trying to pay a country thousands of miles away to take decisions for us instead.’

She asked: ‘What is she (Priti Patel) hiding? Will she tell us now how much she promised Rwanda for each of the people she was planning to send yesterday and how many Rwandan refugees she promised to take in return? She knows that serious concerns have been raised about Rwandan restrictions on political freedom.’

She added: ‘She knows this is unworkable, unethical and won’t stop the criminal gangs but yet she still went ahead and spent half a million pounds chartering a plane she never expected to fly. She still went ahead and wrote a £120 million cheque to Rwanda with a promise of more to come and she still went ahead because all she really cares about is picking fights and finding someone else to blame.

‘This isn’t a long-term plan, is a short-term stunt. Everyone can see it, it’s not a serious policy, it’s shameless posturing and she knows it. It’s not building consensus, it’s just pursuing division. It is Government by gimmick. It’s not in the public interest, it’s just in their political interest.’

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