Tuesday 23 April 2024

Rishi Sunak's Rwanda Fixation

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak don't get on at all well these days, but the former Prime Minister should be flattered by his successor twice removed. Sunak's determination to see the cruel and ludicrous Rwanda scheme through is straight from his strategic play book.

This morning, Sunak was crowing about how the passage of his bill last night changed "the global equation" on immigration. I.e. The Tories have convinced themselves that flying a few hundred traumatised people to Rwanda will deter people from trying to come here and, by extension, discourage others from handing their savings over to smuggling gangs so they can escape their countries. There's no hint of understanding let alone compassion because these most wretched of the earth do not figure as human beings in their political imaginary. When quizzed on this, Sunak says the deal the government struck with Albania has stopped Albanians from clambering onto the small boats. Rwanda will, he hopes, be a universal deterrent for all nationalities.

As forecast a while ago, Keir Starmer was always going to fixate on cost. But there is a point here. Why is this self-styled fiscally prudent government throwing good money after bad to make sure the planes take off? Without regurgitating the basics, which have been discussed here many times goes to the heart of their party's politics. Immigration is a traditional "strong issue" for them. It's something they can mobilise their base behind, and is something of a necessity now Nigel Farage's Reform are menacing their right flank. It's a means of demonstrating the Tories have the competence to govern. And there's the hope that repeatedly smashing the magic bigot button will reverse the polls and hand them an unexpected victory. After all, Leave won the Brexit referendum following a scurrilous anti-immigration campaign. "Controlling our borders" was also an essential prop of Johnson's "Get Brexit Done" election win.

But there is one overlooked component of this pathetic strategy: Sunak's copying of Johnson's Brexit strategy. Readers will recall that this most dishonest of politicians overcame the quibbles some had about him in 2019 by setting himself up as the most Brexity of that year's Tory leadership contenders, and when he was in Number 10 making sure the referendum result was seen through was his sole focus. Johnson proved his seriousness and won over millions of Leave voters by bulldozing through everything that was out to stop him. The courts. Sections of the Tory party. His own brother. And, finally, the Opposition he was able to goad into an election. His manifesto was thin, and enough of the electorate handed the Tories perhaps their greatest and emptiest victory ever.

Sunak is trying to work the same trick. No matter the money, no matter what the courts say, no matter that human rights legislation must be torn up and, in defiance of reality, Rwanda declared a land of milk and honey, Tory strategy is banking on enough voters being impressed by their singular purpose to award them victory. Or at least salvage enough support to head off a cataclysm. It's desperate and delusional stuff, but for the sake of saving a few votes from Farage's clutches they are quite prepared to sacrifice the hopes and health of any number of asylum seekers to achieve it.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not just the asylum seekers who they are throwing under the bus with this wheeze, of course - it's the entire notion of separation or limiting of powers as a thing which this country should bother even paying lip service to. He's out to show "Western society"'s entire ideal of itself as a fraud.

We can only hope that this is rock bottom for our politics.