Thursday, 16 June 2022

Scoring own goals


When presented with an open goal, the usual response of a footballer is to kick the ball into it. Politics doesn’t work that way, especially for Labour leader Keir Starmer. With large swathes of the establishment, including the heir to the throne and the established church, lining up to criticise the scheme to send refugees to Rwanda as unjust, immoral and illegal, and with a number of Labour MPs leading the charge in the House of Commons, the office of the leader of the opposition manages to kick the ball towards his own net instead, by declining to say whether Labour would reverse the policy if it were in government, or even whether Starmer believes it to be morally wrong. Ultimately, it seems that fear of being seen by racist voters to be ‘soft on immigration’ ends up trumping any sense of principled policy making.

It also ends up helping to enable the disingenuous argument, as put forward by Johnson and Patel, that anyone opposing the policy of sending refugees to Rwanda is aiding and abetting the people smugglers who are placing so many vulnerable and desperate people in small boats and sending them on a risky journey across the world’s busiest shipping lane. According to their interpretation, the only way to stop people smugglers is to deter their potential ‘customers’ by convincing them that taking the risk will leave them in an even worse situation than staying where they are (although attempting to implement the policy without first jumping through all the necessary legal hoops might actually have the opposite effect when those ‘customers’ see that no-one really gets sent anywhere). The possibility of doing more to intercept and catch the smugglers themselves doesn’t seem to have even crossed their minds, probably because it might mean having to work with the French, which might amount to a tacit and very un-Brexity admission that co-operation with neighbours could be more effective than confrontation.

Patel’s claim that there is no other way of dealing with the problem than acting illegally sounds a bit like someone telling a court, “I was broke and couldn’t think of another way of getting any money, so I robbed the bank”. Whether there are practical alternatives or not depends on how the problem is defined. If the problem is defined – and it’s not unreasonable to suspect that this is the working definition being used by Patel and Johnson – as ‘how do we get massive headlines and appeal to the basest instincts of our core electors?’, then there is a degree of truth in their claim that opponents are not coming up with alternative solutions. Opponents simply aren’t defining the problem in the same way. Defining the problem as ‘what can we do about a situation where so many people are rendered so desperate by war, famine, oppression and economic inequality that they are prepared to risk their own and their children’s lives by travelling thousand of miles to a place where they can escape those things?’, would lead absolutely no-one, ever, to suggest putting some of those people on a plane and flying them from one of the world’s richest countries to one of the poorest. And that means, according to Patel, that they are not offering any alternative solutions. In the remaining neuron which serves as her logic circuit, she even has some claim to be right.

What’s unclear is which definition ‘Keith’ Starmer is using. Some of the language used by some Labour people suggests that they might actually be looking at the plight of the individuals, but Starmer’s reticence to state, straight out, that the policy is utterly unacceptable in any civilised society and would be immediately scrapped by an incoming Labour government suggests that he, too, might be more fixated on the headlines than on the people involved. Allowing the Mail and the Express to determine Labour policy shows just how far that party has fallen.


CapM said...

The Tory government although devoid of anyone capable of coming up with decent plan or strategy has its 'Mad Men'. With the Rwanda plan those marketing people have come up with a red meat dead cat combo sure to satisfy a section of voters. Whether it achieves what's promised on the tin is irrelevant. Either (some) people are sent back to where they (didn't) come from or the courts (ideally in Europe) thwart the cunning plan. A win win.

As you point out the leader of the Opposition appears not to want to make a principled stand. Maybe he's got his own team of 'Mad men' working on an equally effective counter marketing ploy that will be equally ineffective at actually addressing the issue as the Rwandan one does.

Gav said...

The "Daily Mash" nailed it.

Or maybe they've been reading your blog.

dafis said...

I'm just a bit surprised that Boris, Patel, Truss and Co have not figured a way of shipping all these "unwanted" visitors to Eastern Ukraine. How did Rwanda get selected ? Is there an unlimited source of traumatic experiences there which will serve as a deterrent to any future attempts by thousands to cross that Channel in their attempt to become good Anglos ? Anyway it now looks like that ill conceived scheme is going to hit the buffers and Boris and his little helpers will need to invent some new unpleasantness that will appease the more demented types among M.P's and their followers among the public at large.