Rishi Sunak called the bluff of Tory mafia families in Rwanda vote, says George Osborne

Former chancellor George Osborne has mocked the self-styled mafia ‘families’ on the right of his party, saying they “blinked” when Rishi Sunak called their bluff over this week’s crunch Rwanda vote.

The prime minister still faces a crucial showdown with his critics in the new year as he struggles to save his flagship ‘stop the boats’ plan.

But he survived a key Commons vote that could have plunged his government – and his leadership – into crisis.

In the run up groups of Tory MPs dubbed the ‘five families’ – after the mafia groupings in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather – pressed their party leader to toughen his legislation.

But Mr Sunak held firm. Mr Osborne said the right of the Party had ‘blinked’. He added: “I thought the Conservative rebels overreached.’”

“They were threatening to withhold their support. And they were demanding concessions from the prime minister,” he said.

“And the Prime Minister didn’t give them any. He gave them a tiny, tiny, very thin ladder to climb down and he held the line and as a result, they blinked.”

He added: “And that’s not good. That’s not good if you’re trying to demonstrate the power of the Conservative right… it’s a really good example of that classic political mistake of issuing a threat that you’re not prepared to carry out.”

(Getty Images)

Mr Osborne added that he thought the five groupings were trying to “reopen the [Tory] civil war”, and invoked The Godfather to make fun of the climbdown.

In The Godfather, “going to the mattresses” is a term to describe war between different factions.

During the conflict those involved would escape to safe houses, where they would sleep on mattresses rather than in beds, so they remained alert to night-time attacks.

Mr Osborne said: “I think to Rishi Sunak’s credit, he held the line and he called their bluff, he didn’t really change anything… but he stuck to his guns and then won pretty handsomely.

“And the one thing those mafia families should never do is threaten to go to the mattresses and then lie down in bed.”

Marlon Brando in The Godfather


Despite his victory Mr Sunak still faces a battle within week to see off amendments brought by the both the left and the right of the party. Even if it survives that hurdle it is expected to then face difficulty in the House of Lords.

No 10 refused to confirm the next vote on the Rwanda legislation will be scheduled for January, saying only the timing would be set out in the normal way.


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