Rishi Sunak was dubbed a “lame duck prime minister” after he begged MPs to back his emergency Rwanda law.
The prime minister was left reeling last night following the resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick in the wake of the legislation being published.
He is also facing a potential rebellion from both wings of the Tory Party over the bill, which is designed to finally enable to government to deport asylum seekers to the east African country.
At a hastily-arranged press conference in Downing Street this morning, Sunak was tetchy with journalists as he insisted the new law would allow him to meet his pledge to stop the small boats carrying asylum seekers across the Channel.
The PM insisted that it would not be treated as a confidence vote in his government, and said Tory MPs who fail to back it will not be thrown out of the party.
Instead, he called on Labour to say whether they would back the bill – despite the party making it clear hours earlier that they would vote against it.
One senior Tory MP told HuffPost UK: “He’s essentially saying he’s now relying on Labour to get it through.”
Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This is desperate stuff from a lame-duck Prime Minister who has lost control of his party.
“Using a Downing Street press conference to try to persuade Conservative MPs to back his failed Rwanda plan is a new low.
“Rishi Sunak needs to call an election now so we can end this Conservative chaos and put this government out of its misery.”
During the press conference, Sky News political editor Beth Rigby asked him: “Do you see the reality of what is happening here? You’ve lost control of your party and this has become a confidence issue, not in parliament but in you.
“Do you accept that and will you call an election if you lose these votes?”
But the PM insisted his plan to stop the boats was working and added: “I want to finish the job and finishing the job means getting this legislation on the statute books and getting this scheme up and running.”
GB News political editor Christopher Hope told him that migrants is Calais were “laughing at the UK and its Rwandan policy”.
He added: “Are they right to laugh? Is your policy a joke and your government a laughing stock on this matter?”
Sunak replied: “The number of people crossing from France to the UK this year is down by a third, that’s the simple truth.
“We’ve arrested hundreds of people who have helped facilitate those crossings this year, many of them have already been charged and they’re going to end up going to jail.
“People that have come illegally are having their bank accounts closed – 22,000 of them have been returned.
“So what we’re doing is making a difference.”