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Did Rishi Sunak give up on his Rwanda plan?  

Welcome to Friday’s Early Edition from i.

It’s been fought in the courts, already cost hundreds of millions of pounds, and caused the resignation of an immigration minister, among all other kinds of chaos. But now it appears the Government’s flagship Rwanda plan is highly unlikely to go ahead. Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a snap election for 4 July means no deportation flights to the east African nation can take place before the poll. The PM told LBC radio yesterday: “I’ve said the first flight will go in July, if I’m elected we will get the flights off after the election,” he said. Sir Keir Starmer used the development for an easy attack, saying Mr Sunak doesn’t “believe in his own plan”. He said: “I don’t think he’s ever believed that plan is going to work, and so he has called an election early enough to have it not tested before the election.” Adding to the chaos is the fact that a number of Home Office civil servants are already stationed in Kigali, now waiting for flights that will probably never arrive. i reporters have been talking to insiders about what’s going on. Did the PM lose faith in his flagship policy? We’ll find out what they had to say, after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

The second day of evidence from former Post Office boss Paula Vennells was characterised by responding with “I don’t remember” or “I can’t recall” to questions put to her by Jason Beer KC. The ex-chief executive remained stoic during Thursday’s evidence – until the end of the day when she fought back tears while discussing why she stepped back in 2019.

The brother of a teenage asylum seeker who took his own life in Home Office hotel accommodation has spoken of the despair and isolation that he believes contributed to his sibling’s death – as campaigners demand an urgent investigation into his death. Ismael Maolanzadeh, 19, was found dead in a Birmingham hotel room by his older brother Mustafa in December last year after they fled Iran together and crossed the Channel to the UK.

A significant number of Labour members in Islington North will cut ties with Sir Keir Starmer’s party to join a Jeremy Corbyn independent campaign, insiders believe. The former leader is imminently expected to quit Labour and stand against his former party.

Allies of Rupert Murdoch are urging the media tycoon to stop newspapers in his media empire from backing Labour at the election. The Sun is believed to be “inching towards” switching its support from the Conservatives to Labour, an endorsement prized by Sir Keir Starmer’s team, i has reported.

There is little daylight between the policy positions of the two main parties on the wars in Ukraine and Gaza as they head into a general election, but Labour’s agenda could be more vulnerable to changes on the battlefield, foreign policy experts believe.

A record 251,377 abortions took place in England and Wales in 2022, the highest number since the 1967 Abortion Act was introduced, latest figures from the Department of Health show. The surge, a 17 per cent increase on the previous year, is being driven by the cost-of-living crisis, abortion healthcare providers claim.

Scientists at the University of Warwick have been part of an international team to discover a new new habitable Earth-sized planet. Working with Nasa and the European Space Agency, they say the planet, called Gliese 12 b, is one of the few known rocky planets where humans could theoretically survive.


What happens to the Rwanda plan now?

Did Sunak give up on the plan? It was more than a year ago that Rishi Sunak stood on a podium branded with the slogan ‘stop the boats’. And despite set backs in the courts, as well as criticism not only from the opposition, human rights groups but from his own party, the PM forged ahead. But now, with the policy in jeopardy due to the upcoming election, some are suggesting Mr Sunak may have lost faith in the plan. Conservatives who are close to the plan said that by going to the polls before deportations had begun were a sign of the mood. “He’s going to face serious questions about whether he ever believed in his Bill,” one source said. Another insider said: “There’s no way you call an early election if you think the Rwanda legislation will work’? A former Home Office insider, meanwhile, said they “imagine officials were drinking champagne until the early hours” after hearing the news, while suggesting Mr Sunak has “come around more” to the idea that Rwanda is only part of the solution to the Channel crisis rather than a silver bullet. Read the full story here.

Could it still go ahead? The PM says flights will take off if he is re-elected. With the polls strongly favouring Labour, which has pledged to scrap the plan, that looks increasingly unlikely. So far the Government has already committed to paying Rwanda £370m, and had agreed to pay another £120m once the first 300 asylum seekers are sent to the country. Lord German, a Lib Dem peer, said he was “pretty certain” the plan would no longer go ahead and that money handed to Rwanda would have been better spent on the NHS, describing the plan as a “waste”. Meanwhile it has emerged that Home Office civil servants are already on the ground in Kigali, where they are supporting the Rwandan government in processing asylum claims of migrants sent there from the UK. Read the full story here.

What other flagship policies may be abandoned? Plans for a ban on tobacco and protection for renters’ rights are now unlikely to become law, at least under this Parliament, because there is now not enough time to approve them. The Tobacco and Vapes Bill and the Football Governance Bill will not make it on to the statute book, despite the Prime Minister’s previous insistence that they are among the measures which show he has a long-term vision for the country. The PM promised that the “next generation will grow up smoke-free” in his campaign launch. It is not yet clear whether Labour will reintroduce either of them if it wins the general election. Read more, here. How many of his five key promises has the PM kept? Eleanor Langford takes a look at that, here.

An attempted migrant deportation to Rwanda from the military base in Amesbury, Salisbury, in June 2022 (Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP)

Around the world

Prosecutors in the Netherlands are investigating a criminal complaint against travel firm over its rental property listings in Israeli settlements after human rights groups claimed it was “profiting from war crimes”.

China has launched military drills encircling Taiwan involving warships, fighter jets and rockets in an effort to “divide and demoralise” the island nation and send a signal to the US, an analyst has warned.

The EU is already looking ahead to a ‘serious post-Brexit relationship’ with Labour. Austrian MEP Andreas Schieder says a key factor for EU is Starmer can be trusted, reports Leo Cendrowicz.

At least four people are dead after the collapse of a two-storey restaurant near the beach in Majorca. Dozens of people are thought to be injured following the incident, which happened at the Medusa Beach Club in the popular tourist resort of Palma de Mallorca.

Within hours of the general election announcement on Wednesday, more than 7,000 Britons living abroad had registered to vote in the UK. A campaign group says about 67,000 expatriates have submitted applications since voter registration began from 16 January.

A teenage boy from London who used his computer skills to spread the Catholic faith is to become the first saint of the millennial generation. Pope Francis attributed a second miracle to Carlo Acutis, who died of leukaemia in 2006 aged 15, qualifying him for canonisation.

 Watch out for…

 Promises by the two major parties to bring in cheaper gas and electricity bills for voters as energy becomes the first battleground of the election campaign. They will follow Ofgem’s announcement of a decrease in the energy price cap today. 

 Thoughts for the day

For Rishi Sunak, things can only get worse, writes Adam Boulton.

Waiting any longer was too risky for Rishi Sunak. There was scepticism that rate cuts would come in time, explains Katy Balls.

Modern parents are to blame for their lazy children. If your kids aren’t very active, get them to weed the garden or sweep the path, suggests Julie Cook.

Canterbury is a symbol of declining England – and will turn on the Tories. Lost in the excitement of short-term political gyrations is the degree to which traditional true blue England has changed over recent years, writes Patrick Cockburn.

Henry Cockburn’s painting of the city of Canterbury (2024) General Elcection 2024 Patrick Cockburn article Image via Janet Montefiore

Culture Break

Lenny Kravitz, Blue Electric Light review: As ridiculous as a rock ‘n’ roll Zoolander. With his leather trousers and lack of self-awareness, Kravitz proves that they don’t make stars like this anymore.

Lenny Kravitz (Photo: Mark Seliger)

The Big Read

Big beasts Hunt, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Mordaunt and IDS among top Tories at risk. The key seats to watch in July’s election, including those that a long list of big name Conservatives could lose.


Nottingham Forest forced to sell players by 30 June to avoid fresh FFP penalty. Forest face a race against time to offload players before the deadline to submit their estimated profit and loss accounts to the Premier League, writes Sam Cunningham.

Nottingham Forest could be forced to sell Morgan Gibbs-White this summer (Photo: Getty)

Something to brighten your day

The joyous #gennylec: how the general election will Make Social Media Fun Again. The political fire has been ignited in belly of the great British public – and with it, come the memes.

Derek Guy, “the menswear guy”, who poked fun at Sunak’s rain-soaked suiting (Photo: Derek Guy/ X)

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