Voices: No, of course the Tories didn’t mastermind the Gary Lineker row as a distraction

Those who accuse governments of distraction tactics tend to accidentally give them far more credit than they’re due. It is quite remarkable the number of people who simultaneously believe the current Tory party to be singularly incapable of running the country, but also that it is able to script and produce a 24-hour Truman Show-style dead cat soap opera to prevent anyone from talking about what it’s really up to.

That it somehow possesses rat-like cunning despite having the brains of an amoeba. This is rather unlikely to be the case.

And to that end, it is arguably unlikely that the full week of national discussion about Gary Lineker’s tweet was somehow being orchestrated and controlled from some secret bunker somewhere under Downing Street. That a much-loved sports show being taken off air, and a series of almost universally adored football pundits going on a de facto strike over the right of a man with 7.8 million followers on Twitter to criticise the government was somehow what they wanted. It wasn’t.

And if it was, it seems even more unlikely that the eventual brokering of a peace truce on Monday morning would be done just in time for the Illegal Migration Bill (remember that?) to make its first appearance in the House of Commons.

For a full week, millions of people have been genuinely preoccupied with whether or not it’s wise or even acceptable to suggest that Suella Braverman’s language is reminiscent of language used by Germany in the 1930s (which is precisely what a holocaust survivor said to her when she stopped her in the street two months ago).

But there were other bits to the Lineker tweet. He also called the Illegal Migration Bill “immeasurably cruel” and “beyond awful”, and anyone who thinks he should lose his job for that definitely doesn’t get much value for their license fee money from the BBC Parliament channel.

That it is immeasurably cruel is scarcely a point of debate. Mainly, it is immeasurably stupid. Its immense stupidity, and immense cruelty, were laid bare in the House of Commons for absolutely all to see, shortly before it was inevitably voted through.

If the Illegal Migration Bill functions as Suella Braverman theoretically intends, it will mean that anyone who arrives in the UK by boat will be expelled within 28 days, either to their home country, or, in her own words, “to a safe third country like Rwanda” and have their cases heard remotely.

She argues it is crucial to draw a distinction between “genuine” claims of asylum, and young men from safe countries, like Albania, who are economic migrants. But she doesn’t explain in any way how they will be distinguished between, given they will be deported in the first instance, and then the details worried about later. It is precisely for this reason that she herself has advised MPs that there is a more than 50 per cent chance that what she intends to do will be found not to be legal.

Which will mean, at best, that the 28-day period expires long before anyone is removed anywhere, and that these people will simply exist, within the UK, as semi-stateless refugees, creating a problem she very clearly lacks the wit to solve.

When any of this is put to her, she says the same thing, as she did on Monday evening, that the main point of the Illegal Migration Bill is to act as a “deterrent”. That the mere threat of being packed off to Rwanda should be sufficient to stop the dinghies from ever setting off.

And yet, like her predecessor, Priti Patel (who first announced the policy less than 24 hours after Boris Johnson had been fined by the police), if anyone should put to her that Rwanda may be a less than perfect country, with a track record of jailing political opponents, they will quickly find themselves accused of bigotry and xenophobia.

“Rwanda is a dynamic country with a thriving economy,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed visiting myself twice before and I look forward to visiting again.”

This is amoeba-like cunning. To expect people to be unable to work out that Rwanda can’t be both a wonderful place to start a new life and a deterrent to anyone hoping to do just that.

But she knows that, she just doesn’t especially care. But she also knows what everyone else can see. That the Illegal Migration Bill isn’t in any way designed to work, or to actually mend an asylum system that the Tory Party freely admits is “broken” despite their having been solely in charge of it for almost a decade and a half.

It’s just designed to look and to sound as cruel as they can possibly manage, and that its inevitable failure won’t become too obvious too quickly.

By Tuesday, naturally, the House of Commons was back in its happy place, with an hour-long debate on, you’ve guessed it Gary Lineker’s tweet. Tory MP after Tory MP rose to say what a disgraceful thing it was to say. They all had bright ideas for how the BBC should be reorganised so that this kind of thing could never happen again. New guidance, new guidelines, a new oversight board – none of which are in the government’s remit and nor should they ever be – but that didn’t stop them.

You can hardly blame them for enjoying the distraction.