The Tories are doing the same thing yet again and nobody expects results
If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, Rishi Sunak and the Conservative government must need 24-hour psychiatric supervision. There have been dozens of initiatives and six new bills aimed at stopping people entering the UK since 2015. The most recent one, the nationality and borders bill, promised to end small boats crossings once and for all. That went well. Last year saw a record 45,000 arrivals.
But Rish! is nothing if not pig-headed. So he’s now made stopping the small boats an election promise. And to make good on it, he has now introduced yet another bill that to all intents and purposes looks hopelessly flawed and completely pointless. The chances of it achieving its objectives are nil. It’s performative dadaist politics. Something that is designed to con his dimmer backbenchers and a small minority of the country. And if all else fails, Sunak could go begging to voters. “I know I’ve failed. But at least I tried.” Good luck with that.
Still, there are a surprising number of Tory MPs willing to be duped. They will get fooled again. Nobody ever lost money by underestimating the stupidity of the current Conservative mob. They know that every previous immigration bill has been a crock of shit. They know the current one is almost identical. And yet they are desperate to believe in miracles.
So about 100 or so of the Lumpen Conservatariat were crowded down the far end of the Commons as Suella Braverman prepared to share her dreams about barring foreigners. The other end was more sparsely populated. Those Tories with more synaptic engagement and human sensibilities had chosen to stay away. These days, sticking up for refugees in public can get you into an awful lot of trouble in government circles.
Shortly after 12.30pm, Braverman, flanked by a nervously grinning Rish! – he’s more and more becoming an absence rather than a presence – got up to deliver her statement on the illegal migration bill. Aptly named, because most of it is illegal. “Yesterday’s laws are not fit for purpose,” she began. Er, that’s not what the last home secretary said. Or indeed you, when you gave the French more money to police their coast. But hey, whatever. Let’s just close our eyes and roll with the nonsense. Because this time it really is going to work. I can feel it in my bones.
It was like this. If we continued to do nothing – she wasn’t shy about slagging off both herself and her predecessors – then 100 million asylum seekers would be turning up on our shores next week. Yup, you heard that right. Probably an underestimate. Why not include China? Nothing odd about so many people coming to the UK. Two and a half million small boats with 40 people on each would turn up on Dover beach at the same time. It would be by far the biggest flotilla in history. The UK’s population would almost treble in a day. Suella looked completely serious as she said this. A worry. Perhaps she really is that stupid.
Anyway, to stop the 100 million coming here, she was going to introduce a new law. One that was almost identical to the previous ones. Here was the plan. We’d round up everyone who arrived at Dover and bang them in a detention camp that we hadn’t yet built. Regardless of whether they had a legal right to asylum. The modern slavery law could also do one. Far too woke. We would then fly them all to Rwanda. Only we hadn’t yet dumped anyone in Rwanda. And in any case Rwanda had only said it would take 200. Perhaps we’ll just throw them in the sea. None of them would ever be allowed near the UK again.
But the net result was she had no idea if the bill was compatible with the European convention on human rights and no one would be deported for years as most cases would get held up in the court system for years. So the chances of Rish! stopping the boats before the election were zero. Genius! All this would save the British taxpayer billions by costing billions more. Amazingly, she wasn’t even embarrassed.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper tried to point out some of the logical inconsistencies, but Braverman wasn’t listening. She was rushing on her run. Anyone who tried to talk her down was just out of touch with the British public. She wasn’t a racist, nor were any Brits – really? There are some who look that way on your own benches – but enough was enough. You give these foreigners an inch and they take a mile. It was time to get tough and kick ass. There would be blood.
The Tories lapped it all up. None seemed to be aware they had just been sold a bridge. A while ago, Tim Loughton had a brief incarnation as a liberal when he realised he was going to lose his seat to the Lib Dems, but now he appears to be resigned to being unemployed. He just wanted asylum seekers to suffer as much as he was. Not even a pretence at morality. Others were all for detention centres: just as long as they weren’t built in their constituencies. They had more than enough foreigners already. No vacancies.
Predictably, Braverman hadn’t gone far enough for some Tories. Iain Duncan Smith, Simon Clarke, Bill Cash and Mark Francois all begged the home secretary to leave the ECHR. If international law was going to be tricky, then just ignore it. We could go it alone. What was wrong with turning the UK into a pariah state? Suella didn’t disagree. She didn’t say the ECHR was a legal necessity. She didn’t say the ECHR underpinned Brexit and the Good Friday agreement. She just muttered non-committally. Here was the Tory manifesto for the next election.
Meanwhile, Rish! hightailed it to Dover. Looking for a refugee who had just arrived. “Haha. You’ve blown it. It’s the detention centre for you. And then you’re off to somewhere!” Maybe find a boat he could slash with a knife. All the while, telling the world how much he valued foreigners. How welcome the one Afghan who had reached the UK via a safe route in the last year was.
Hours later he was back at No 10 to give a press conference from a podium branded “Stop the boats”. In which he said nothing, while trying to sound like a billionaire man of the people. The bill would work because it would work. “I promise what I deliver and I deliver what I promise.” He and the country were just all compassioned out. Refugees were so last year. He didn’t really sound as if he believed a word of it. Just pure cynical politics. His parents would be ashamed.
Quite the day in Westminster. Hard to know what had won. Stupidity? Nastiness? Hypocrisy?