Boris Johnson’s ally reveals the one crisis dogging Rishi Sunak | Politics | News

One of Boris Johnson’s chief lieutenants during his time in Downing Street has publicly highlighted the major tactical crisis dogging Rishi Sunak’s election campaign and his whole time in office.

Lee Cain, who served as Mr Johnson’s spin doctor during his first few years in Downing Street, has highlighted the issue as it comes to a head with Mr Sunak’s manifesto launch.

The Prime Minister is set to commit the Tories to reforming Britain’s membership of the European Court of Human Rights should he pull off a surprise victory and win the election.

The ECHR has become a bogeyman among the right, as it’s seen to have played a key role over the last few years in frustrating and preventing migrant deportations to Rwanda.

Mr Cain says this fudged Tory compromise – developed to try and appeal to both the right wing and centrist factions of Mr Sunak’s divided party – is a “classic example” of trying to “be all things to all people”.

He warns that the compromise will end up as the “worst of all words”, for five clear reasons.

The top communications strategist wars that a policy to “reform” the ECHR will fail strategically because:

  1. The public won’t believe that the Tories are able to renegotiate the ECHR after “years of broken promises on immigration”, and therefore the pledge won’t budge Labour’s stubborn poll lead
  2. It’s a “clear admission” that the Rwanda policy has, and will continue to, fail in deporting migrants without this new reform of the international court.
  3. The right of the Conservative Party will be annoyed that the policy commitment doesn’t go far enough, and doesn’t open up enough of a “wedge” with the Labour Party
  4. The centre of the Tory party will be “furious” that the ECR is on the table
  5. The policy can be “outflanked” by Reform UK, who don’t need to broker a compromise with the wings of the party and can simply promise to leave the European convention altogether.

Mr Cain concludes that the ECHR policy set to be announced in today’s Conservative manifesto is “all the political pain for none of the political pain”, and argues its a key example of the political tactics used by Mr Sunak and his team that has “consistently gone wrong in the last few years”.

This morning it was revealed that Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has been a key player fighting against any plans by Mr Sunak to commit to leaving the ECHR.

A recording of him a private meeting, unearthed by the Independent, saw him warn that leaving the convention would lead to a “situation where we smashed up international law”.

He claimed doing so would lead to a “whole lot of damage” whereby firms are not “going to invest in our country”.

In May, Tory right-winger Mark Francois suggested that his wing of the party could unite with the centrist One Nation group to find common ground over a manifesto ECHR commitment.

He said he’d spoken to members of the One Nation group who would back a plan to include a manifesto promise to renegotiate the ECHR, but warn that failure to achieve significant reforms would see the UK leave the controversial treaty.

Responding to the suggestion, a source from the One Nation caucus agreed that the ECHR “isn’t effectively addressing the challenge of illegal migration”.

“Instead of contemplating an exit, we should take a leading role in reforming it from the inside to ensure it serves the UK and its other member countries.

“Any other discussions are unproductive at this point.”

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