Immigration: Tory splits 'made simple'

Theresa May Image copyright BBC News

Struggling to follow the latest Tory split about immigration and Europe? Let me see if I can help.

The home secretary believes that a proposal to give her stronger powers to deport foreign criminals is illegal, unworkable and may, in fact, lead to fewer deportations.

So, Conservative ministers have been ordered by the prime minister not to oppose it.

Yes, you read that right.

Despite all of the above David Cameron has told his troops to abstain rather than face headlines about a massive Tory revolt. He is said to be sympathetic to the aims of the backbench rebels who have refused to back down.


Other coalition ministers have been told by the deputy prime minister that the Lib Dems are opposing the proposal on the grounds that it is, yes, illegal, unworkable and may, in fact, lead to fewer deportations.

This means that the key to whether it is passed or not has, in this Alice in Wonderland parliamentary saga, been handed to Ed Miliband.

Now, the Labour leader was planning to oppose the proposal on the grounds that …well, you get the idea.

But now if he does he'll be held directly responsible for killing off a policy which is likely to be very popular with voters.

However, in theory he could choose to highlight the Tory split by joining David Cameron in telling his troops to abstain.

This would lead to the surreal situation in which something all the front benches agree is - sorry to repeat myself - illegal, unworkable and may, in fact, lead to fewer deportations - will be passed by the House of Commons and it would be left to the Lords to amend or stop it.

Still puzzled?

Let's make it really simple. David Cameron faced a choice between headlines about Tory rebellions/splits/chaos and chose instead to back down/ compromise/surrender (Delete according to your political taste).


Labour have decided to vote against the Tory rebel amendment whilst condemning a "weak and chaotic" government. So, it will fail thanks to the votes of the opposition and the Lib Dems but not due to Tory ministers who - did I mention - believe the proposals are illegal, unworkable and counter productive.

One senior backbench Tory source describes this as "at best the appearance of chaos".