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PM’s charm offensive has worked for now, but it will only get harder | Politics News

His authority stretched to snapping point, the prime minister saved himself from free fall on Tuesday night after winning the vote on his emergency Rwanda legislation with a majority of 43.

All day there were whispers of it being on a knife edge and that it might only scrape through.

When MPs representing the five Tory groupings on the right of the party said they’d advised members to abstain, it was a nervy moment.

Politics latest: Follow vote fallout live

In the end, 37 MPs abstained – and the prime minister won the day.

Anything else didn’t bear contemplating: a loss at second reading – where MPs debate the principle of a piece of legislation, rather than the nuts and bolts of a bill – is extremely rare: the last time it happened was to Margaret Thatcher nearly 40 years ago over Sunday trading laws.

There is no doubt huge relief tonight in Downing Street as Rishi Sunak’s Christmas nightmare turned into a Christmas reprieve.

His supporters have their tails up, with Damian Green, the chair of the One Nation group, telling me that the majority showed the prime minister didn’t need to amend this bill for it to live.

His message to the prime minister was to face the rebels down and keep the legislation as it is.

Damien Green
Damien Green said the One Nation group wouldn’t support an amended bill

“We are backing the bill at this stage, but we would not support any amendments that push it further that may threaten the legality of the bill,” he said.

“We [the One Nation group] had a sober discussion, we’ve got concerns about this bill, but we want to get behind it and get behind the prime minister so he can get the bill he has proposed through without any amendments.”

But, on the other side of the party, the message from right-wingers as the House of Commons cleared out was clear.

Mark Francois, the chair of the ERG Brexiteer group, told me simply that MPs were willing to take the prime minister at his word and would be amending the bill – wait for the Bill Cash amendment – in the New Year.

He was adamant when I suggested he didn’t have the numbers to vote the prime minister down (always my job to be devil’s advocate) that they did.

“We are not supporting the bill, the bulk of us will abstain. I’ve done this for a few years, and you never predict the numbers before a vote,” he said.

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‘Bulk of ERG to abstain on Rwanda bill’

Another senior rebel figure put it like this: “This bill has been allowed to live another day. But without amendments, it will be killed next month. It’s now up to the government to decide what it wants to do.”

To put it another way, this could very much prove a pyrrhic victory come the New Year: the prime minister has won this battle, but the deeper civil war in the party over what to do about Rwanda will rage on, and when this when it comes to who will triumph, all bets are still off.

That’s because many of those on the right of his party have held their noses and either walked through the voting lobby with the government or abstained, while making it crystal clear to the prime minister and the whips that they expect meaningful amendments to be made.

Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister who resigned over the bill, spoke for many of the rebels on Tuesday when he outlined the two biggest stumbling blocks he saw in the emergency bill.

First, that the bill doesn’t address the issue of individual claims which he argues will lead to a delay of legal appeals, delay removal of asylum seekers and clog up the courts.

Second, the bill doesn’t make it clear enough that the government will ignore rulings from the Strasbourg courts – known as section 39 measures – for flights to be delayed.

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Rwanda bill: What happens next?

He, and other MPs, think in the end ministers will adhere to these orders because failure to do so will be a breach of international law – something the prime minister says he’s not prepared to do.

Many of those minded to abstain or vote against on Tuesday were peeled off by a prime minister who went into overdrive to get his bill past the first hurdle.

There were bacon butties in No 10 with the right-wing New Conservatives at 7.30am.

He then settled in at his office in parliament, meeting with the One Nation caucus in the afternoon and having one-on-ones with MPs minded to rebel.

The charm offensive has worked for now, but the issues raised by Mr Jenrick still stand and MPs expect changes.

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Meanwhile, the One Nation caucus’s warning that it will only support this bill if it isn’t amended further, and you can see the rub.

One very senior Conservative sitting in the centre ground of the party, who has been battered by Brexit wars, says the prime minister can face down the rebels, but asks whether he has the guts to stand his ground.

One test passed tonight. It will only get harder.

‘I was harassed in almost half the jobs I worked as a surgeon’: Retired doctor speaks out | UK News

A retired surgeon says she was harassed in “almost half the jobs” she worked as a junior trainee.

Dr Liz O’Riordan spoke out as a new survey found almost a third of NHS female surgical staff have been sexually assaulted in the last five years.

Among the UK’s surgical workforce, 63% of women and 23% of men have experienced being sexually harassed by colleagues, the study found.

Assaults ranged from genitals or breasts being touched to rape.

Dr O’Riordan, a retired onco-plastic breast surgeon, said she was shocked “it’s still happening today”, after experiencing repeated harassment during her training.

“When I was operating, one of my consultants asked across the table ‘Who was I sleeping with?’ Because I ‘look like I could go a round or two’,” she told Sky News.

“At the time when I was training, it was common – surgery was and still is a male-dominated environment. And when you’re in the operating theatre, you are very vulnerable.

“You are wearing thin scrubs, stood shoulder to knee with the men you’re working with for many hours at a time.

“And it’s very easy for lewd comments or wandering hands to enter your field.”

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Surgical staff sexually assaulted

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Dr O’Riordan said many surgeons feared being labelled “difficult” if they raised a complaint and worried that the men would refuse to train them.

“I think it’s a small number of repeat offenders, but because women make up such a small amount of the workforce, then they are likely to work with these men,” Dr O’Riordan said.

Liz as a trainee surgeon
Liz as a trainee surgeon

Surgeons ‘slow’ to speak out

Tim Mitchell, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told Sky News he regretted instances where he had not been quick to speak out.

“I still am working as a surgeon and I have been aware of circumstances. I have called people out on occasions, been aggressive in the past.

“I may have not been quick enough to do that.

“It’s quite difficult to do in the heat of the moment, but we need to encourage people to call out such behaviour so that we can around cases.”

‘NHS staff are worked to the bone’: Health secretary Steve Barclay challenged by mother during hospital visit | Politics News

A mother has challenged health secretary Steve Barclay during a hospital visit, telling him that NHS staff are being “worked to the bone”.

Sarah Pinnington-Auld said her three-year-old daughter Lucy, who has cystic fibrosis, was pushed off the “absolutely horrific” waiting list at King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill, London, because of “the obscene number of people who came through and the lack of resources”.

“That’s what is really upsetting actually because we have a daughter with a life-limiting, life-shortening condition,” she told Mr Barclay.

“We have brilliant experts that are being worked to the bone and the level of care… they’re not being able to provide it in the way they want to provide it.

“The staff are amazing, the NHS staff are incredible, and they are particularly even more incredible because they are working under such rough conditions.”

Politics live: Health secretary says he is keen to talk to unions

She cited the pressures facing King’s College Hospital and added that “it’s not fair to blame it on the pandemic anymore is it, because actually we have problems in the NHS before we went into the pandemic”.

She added: “We were short of doctors, we were short of beds going into the pandemic so I think it is really wrong to blame it on the pandemic.”

And on bed shortages, she told the health secretary: “We have people who can’t get into health and social care and are taking up beds.

“So until you as a government prioritise health and social care, we are not going to free up the already limited number of beds.”

The mother-of-two said Mr Barclay responded to her concerns by saying the government was investing more money into the health service

Ms Pinnington-Auld has previously posted on social media about her support for the Labour Party.

Mr Barclay is understood to be writing to the unions to request fresh talks over strike action – but sources say he still won’t discuss increasing their wages.

Both nurses and ambulance workers are set to stage walkouts this week amid ongoing anger over pay and working conditions.