The first rule in politics says that when in trouble, blame someone else. And the second rules says that if you created that trouble, blame someone else.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may be in office now for two weeks — gosh, how almost tranquil it’s been since the turbulence of the Truss era — but the Conservatives are still in a boatload of trouble.
They’ve made a right mess of the economy, there’s a £40 billion hole in their public finances, the British public are facing a winter of discontent, the prospect of rotating power cuts over the darkest days and nights of that seas, electricity and gas bills are going through the roof — so too the prices on the shelves at supermarkets — and interest rates have jumped to punish those wanting to buy a home or facing renewals of their mortgages.
In the opinion polls, the Tories are still some 20 points behind the opposition Labour party — Sunak has at least stopped the bleed and given a slight bounce. But ultimately, for the next two years leading up to a general election, it’s his job to at least keep the Conservatives from being wiped out — which a Truss leadership would have done.
A Tory problem
So, this problem is largely of the Conservatives’ making. Yes, there were external factors such as that matter of a pandemic, and the conflict in Ukraine — but the Tories have been in power for over a decade now, far too long to blame the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for the state of the nation.
No, this is all their own doing — David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and now Rishi Sunak — and the rest of them who went along with austerity. And Brexit.
Right now, instead of digging themselves in deeper, the Conservatives are looking for someone to blame.
Yes, of course, it’s the refugees! Those hordes of migrants coming in small boats across the English Channel, are to blame. Shift the focus onto those outsiders with the nerve to come to Britain — they’re to blame — not the successive Conservative governments that have properly stuffed Britain and its finances. What? Not Brexit? How silly of me!
In the past week, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, has actually uttered the words “invasion”.
I apologise, dear readers, for failing in my journalist endeavours, to report that these small dinghies coming across the channel had succeeded where, King Phillip of Spain and his Armada in Elizabeth times, Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grand Army at the turn of the 19th Century, and Adolf Hitler in the summer of 1940, had failed.
Gosh, such an invasion hadn’t happened since 1066 when William the Conqueror and his Norman knights succeeded, or a millennium beforehand when the Roman Empire expanded its northeastern frontier.
No invasion here
Sorry, I missed it. But, apparently, if you read the right wing tabloid press — you know, the papers that were supporting Boris and Liz for the great job they were doing — the southeast of England is overrun with swarms of marauding migrants, pillaging the settles of Saxon England much as the Vikings did 1,100 years ago.
If Britain thought Brexit and walking away from the European Union would magically solve all of its migration worries, sadly, it was wrong. But then again, a lot of what was said about Brexit being the cure-all was wrong too.
The mild summer and autumn have prompted many desperate refugees with little option but to pay human trafficking crime syndicates exorbitant sums for a place on a dangerous dinghy.
For those who do make it across the Channel — most are picked up by RNLI Lifeboats, Royal Navy or UK Border Force vessels — the desperate new arrivals find themselves imprisoned in camps in overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation for weeks, months and even years. They are unable to work. Yes — unable to work even as, because of Brexit staff shortages — there aren’t enough seasonal workers to pick vegetables on British farms.
Tory hard lines would live to pack them up and send them off to Rwanda. That hasn’t happened, because things like the legal process and human rights are getting in the way.
Yes, the numbers are increasing, from 8,400 in 2020 to 28,500 in 2021, and up to about 40,000 this year.
But as much as the Tories would like to shift the focus onto what they term are “economic migrants” — the word “refugee” is far too sympathetic, they say — Britain is simply the last chain in the link.
Besides, if you’ve grown up learning English, watching British and US programmes on television, reading English content on the internet, watching English teams play football, playing cricket as a child, then there’s a natural affinity to want to travel there to try and make dreams come true.
The Tories would have you believe that it’s because the benefits system is so good. It ain’t. It’s been pared back to less than the bare minimum, as millions of Britons on Universal Credit are finding our right now in these tough inflationary times. No, those refugees aren’t coming for the National Health Service either.
Things are so bad, there’s a five-year waiting list to see a dentist for most Brits, ambulances have suspended some emergency calls, it takes two years to get a knee replaced, months to see a cancer specialist when it ought to be weeks.
Heck — those real facts should be enough for many Brits to take to dinghies themselves and head the other way across the channel!