Friday, 4 January 2019

Chasing the succession

One of the problems which results from having a lame duck Prime Minister who everyone knows is going to resign at some point in the comparatively near future is that those around her are inevitably focussing more on how to put themselves in the best position to succeed her than on anything else.  In the same way that Brexit itself has come to dominate the PM’s every waking hour (and quite a few of the sleeping ones as well, I wouldn’t be surprised), and destroyed her domestic agenda (insofar as she ever had one), so the timing and nature of her departure and the succession have come to dominate the time and thoughts of the host of backstabbers loyal allies around her.
Over the past week, the threat to Sajid Javid’s chances of succeeding Theresa May posed by a handful of migrants crossing to the UK from France has clearly caused him a great deal of concern.  Far more concern, in fact, than the fate of the people involved.  Apparently, he believes that those MPs (and, if he gets into the final two, the party members) who will make the choice of leader will be suitably impressed if he is seen to be tough on migration (I’d be tempted to add the Blairite rider ‘and tough on the causes of migration’, except that I don’t believe he cares a fig about those).  In this, he is deluded; those involved are less concerned with whether he is or is not tough on anything than about whether they can spin a story that he is simply not up to speed with what is happening.  It’s not about the substance of either policy or action; it’s about finding a way of discrediting him.  The migrants are just what the military might call 'collateral damage' in the continuing internal Tory intrigues.
But mistakenly believing that the facts of the situation are of any relevance at all to that small electorate which he is targeting, he is tying himself further in knots with every utterance.  He has managed to suggest an approach which is illegal in international law, and his determination to work closely with the French to uphold the EU rule that asylum-seekers must apply for asylum in the first country which they reach appears to ignore the fact that the government of which he is a part is actively seeking to extricate itself from any obligation to follow the relevant EU rules.  He seems to be assuming that just because the UK is no longer going to be part of the relevant agreement, that’s no reason for the French not to abide by it and accept that it is somehow ‘their’ problem.
His claim that those involved are not ‘real’ asylum-seekers makes him sound more like a railway company blaming ‘the wrong type of snow’ than a government minister seeking to address the reasons why people put themselves through a perilous journey to reach these shores.  I struggle to understand why an attempt to escape poverty in some way makes people less deserving of our assistance than an attempt to escape war – particularly when both poverty and war are largely caused or facilitated by countries such as the UK in the first place – yet it’s a distinction which trickles casually from the mouths of people like Javid, who would prefer to send people back into poverty and an early death than do anything to address the problems which provoke people into migration.  Labelling the victims as the ‘wrong type of migrant’ is a shameful distraction from the real issues.

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