The Tories announce their new immigration policy just after the Prime Minister is found to have broken the law.
The weather outside the window seems to be getting better in equal measure to how bleak British politics has become. The prime minister is a criminal, millions of people will not be able to afford basic necessities like food and fuel, and what does the government do? Signs a deal with the dictator of Rwanda to fly desperate asylum seekers 6000 miles away so it can avoid processing their claims in the UK.
For #RightWingWatch this week, I looked at the response of Tory MPs and other right wingers to the news that Boris Johnson would be fined for breaking his own lockdown rules. I reported on the news that the US data surveillance company Palantir is in line to win a big NHS data platform contract, and I also looked at how the free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs is promoting further NHS privatisation.
In a speech on Thursday, just a few days after it was confirmed that Boris Johnson would be fined for breaking his own Covid lockdown rules to take part in parties at Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the UK was a “beacon of openness and generosity”, as he announced yet more cruel, punitive immigration policies designed to make Britain as hostile to asylum seekers as possible.
The UK says the plan will be initially funded by a £120 million deal with Rwanda, but the cost could rise to £1.4 billion a year, according to the Refugee Council. There are also serious legal concerns about what safeguards would be available to refugees offshored by the British government. During the ‘War on Terror’, the UK and US used notorious offshore detention facilities to interrogate suspects in places where domestic legal protections did not apply.
As Times journalist Chris Smyth pointed out, April 14 was the first day of pre-election ‘purdah’, a “period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on communications activity are in place”. Local Government Association guidance on these rules says “The first question to ask is: ‘could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?’”
And if all that wasn’t enough to make you both despairing and murderously angry at the government, they’re also putting the Royal Navy in charge of policing channel crossings, which I’m sure will be totally fine and not lead to more deaths. Oh, and Nigel Farage used the occasion to call for the UK to leave the European Court of Human Rights.
To support their cruel, anti-refugee policies, Tories continue to parrot the line that most of the people crossing the channel in small boats are ‘economic migrants’, a claim found not to be true by Full Fact, a fact checking organisation. They asked Tory MP Scott Benton to back up his claim about economic migrants, but he refused.
Of course the government has been driving an ever more cruel and punitive immigration policy for years, but a pivot back to immigration certainly changes the national conversation at a time when inflation is hitting 7%, working class people are facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis, and the Tories are engulfed in various scandals.
The list of sexual offences committed by Tory MPs seems to be getting longer by the day. One Tory MP was found guilty of sexually assaulting a boy. Another protected her husband, Charlie Elphicke, when he was accused and then convicted of sexual assault. A third Tory MP was convicted or raping his wife in 2021. Another investigation into a Tory MP accused of rape was dropped in 2020.
And would it surprise you to learn that the Conservative Party attracts quite a few racists too? The chair of Enfield Conservatives was revealed to have once dressed up as a Nazi this week. He said it was a long time ago and he had no memory of it, of course.
Colin Davis said: “I have no recollection of this at all. Yes, there were various wild parties, very perverse themes expressed… I can’t absolutely rule it out.”
It seems in fact that the Tories may have a bit of an antisemitism problem, as two Tory candidates for the upcoming council elections in Bury were accused of making antisemitic comments online. Both candidates were then dropped by the party.
No doubt we can expect more stories about improperly vetted council candidates doing bad things in the run up to the local elections on May 5 (in which the Tories are projected to lose up to 800 council seats).
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, was criticised this week for suggesting that Tory voting areas would receive more funding. According to The National, “Green MSP Maggie Chapman said it was an attempt to “bribe” people into voting Tory.” I have written a lot about Turkish politics in the past, this tactic reminds me of Turkish style patronage politics, where areas that do not vote for the government are denied funding to punish them.
And of course, these kind of ‘bribes’ are likely to be empty promises anyway. The government’s Levelling Up fund is unlikely to help many areas, with the Northern Echo reporting on Thursday on a massive post-Brexit funding drop which will not be fixed by the government’s Levelling Up plans.
And meanwhile everything is becoming materially worse for everyone except those with significant wealth to fall back on. Student loan interest rates are due to rise significantly, meaning young people with tuition fee debt will be paying back more for longer.
Where do we go from here? It’s hard to gauge the anger and desperation filling the country, or what it might lead to, but as the weather warms up, I’m reminded of the August nights of 2011 and the London Riots, and I wonder what kind of spark might light a fire under the kindling that is piling up on the doorstep of this immoral government.
John Lubbock leads on the Right-Watch project at Left Foot Forward