Meet the New Conservatives is giving Rishi Sunak a migration headache

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LONDON — Watch out for Rishi Sunak, there’s a new right-wing Tory pressure group in town.

The New Conservatives – a group of 25 MPs from the 2017 and 2019 parliamentary elections – launched Monday with a major call for the Tory prime minister to do more to cut migration.

They urged Sunak – already under pressure over the issue – to focus on fulfilling his predecessor-but-one Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto promise to get the net number under 226,000. So who are the New Conservatives? And what exactly do they want?

The new group is run by Danny Kruger, a former Johnson aide, and Miriam Cates, a supporter of Home Secretary Suella Braverman when she ran for Tory leader last year.

Other members of the group include backbenchers Tom Hunt, Jonathan Gullis, Gareth Bacon, Duncan Kaker, Paul Bristow, Brendan Clarke-Smith, James Daly, Anna Firth, Nick Fletcher, Chris Green, Eddie Hughes, Mark Jenkinson, Andrew Lewer, Marco Longhi, Robin Millar, and Lia Nici.

Lee Anderson, the pugnacious former Labor aide turned Tory co-chairman, was conspicuously absent from the event – and all literature – despite being part of the group and being asked to speak late into the night. Stand-in Kruger insisted “he was unwell in bed” but also “did not formally support the policy proposals” because of his party’s role.

Eagle-eyed readers will note that this list does not live up to its advertised 25.

When asked about this at a news conference, Hunt said there is a “large group of MPs who support our work,” but those listed are those who specifically support the migration policies presented today.

So what do they want?

Cates kicked off the group’s launch event in Westminster by making it clear that the group’s immediate focus was on migration — though it was clear there was much more to come.

Her message for Sunak? “The choice is: cut immigration, keep our promises to the voters, and restore democratic, cultural and economic security, or stop the road, lose the next election, and resign from a low-growth, low-wage, workforce. -an intensive service economy with an estimated population increasing by another 20 million in the next 25 years.”

The New Conservatives outlined a 12-point plan on Monday that they claim will do just that. But some of its key recommendations are likely to prove controversial.

Perhaps the thing that has attracted the most attention is the call to cancel the Health and Care Visa, which was launched to fill gaps in the health and social care sector with foreign workers. The group said this would cut the number of new visas issued by 117,000 and reduce long-term international migration by 82,000.

MP James Daly told reporters on Monday he was “distressed” by questions about the rivalry, rejecting suggestions they are here to cause trouble for PM Rishi Sunak | British Parliament

But big questions remain about how the resulting gaps in the health and social care workforce will be filled with UK recruits. UNISON Secretary General Christina McAnea said the government was “doing nothing to solve the growing crisis in care. Now a group of his MPs want the ministers to make things worse.”

Beyond that promise, the New Conservatives also want to reserve university study visas for only the “brightest” international students; stop overseas graduates staying up to two years in the UK without a job; and placing tighter limits on the social housing allocated to migrants.

They also want to “quickly implement” the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, which — given its persecution in the House of Lords Monday — may be a tough request.

Are they rivals of Rishi?

The group has steadfastly rejected any notion that they are here to cause trouble for the prime minister, with Daly telling reporters gathered Monday he was “stressed out” by questions about the rivalry.

Just to be clear, Daly added that “everyone here today supports the prime minister.”

But they are no doubt a thorn in Sunak’s side as the next election draws near.

The prime minister’s official spokesman insisted Monday that the government’s plans on migration need not be strengthened. “We have to strike the right balance between dealing with clean migration and taking in the people we need,” the spokesperson said, adding “we believe they strike the right balance at this point. We are continuously reviewing our migration policies.”

Is it only about migration?

So far — but expect to hear more from the group in the coming months.

Speaking to POLITICO, Hunt said he saw the group focusing on three main issues: migration; law and order; and what they saw as a threat to Britain from “awake” ideas.

Hunt emphasizes that he wants the outfit to “dip their toe” into the anti-wake issue “generally as a pushback, rather than waking up every morning and thinking ‘right, what’s our next big culture war wedge problem?'” So hoping for some anti-spice spice. wake sprinkled on New Conservative main dishes.

Hunt said he was moved by what he saw as a “void void” in the school, and the dominance of “self-loathing in this country”.

“I was concerned when I saw the odd poll that said the majority of 18-25 year olds saw Churchill as a villain rather than a hero,” he said. That doesn’t mean the group will call on the UK to start “ignoring the past and saying we’ve always got it right,” he added – but conceding that “in the struggle between Russia and China, we are a hell of a lot better than them.”

MP Danny Kruger co-chairs the New Conservatives — a group of 25 MPs from the 2017 and 2019 parliamentary elections | British Parliament

So will this agenda help the Tories win in 2024 — or recover after?

Opinion polls show the Tories are on track to lose the next election, and badly. The New Conservatives want their ideas featured in the 2024 election manifesto, and believe they have an agenda to connect with working class voters in the so-called Red Wall seat that Johnson won from Labor in 2019 and which now looks vulnerable.

Cates told the audience gathered at Westminster Monday that: “We want to win, sure, but it’s more than that. That’s because we believe that we still have, despite everything, the best opportunity to give the best to the British people.” He said of the 2019 party platform: “The demand for the offer is still there. We want to fulfill it.”

Not all Tories are convinced. Conservative commentator John Oxley argues that the influence of the New Conservatives may be short-lived.

These, he said, “are dominated by 2019 types, Red Wall MPs who are likely to lose their seats sometime in the future. They may try to influence the manifesto in a way that helps them, or brand themselves as immigration hardliners to try and buck national trends, but are unlikely to have much influence on Rishi Sunak.

And he warned: “Equally, it is unlikely that this group will have a major impact on the future of the Conservative Party, because so many of them will be out of parliament when those discussions begin after the election.”

Dan Bloom contributed reporting.

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