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The anatomy of pre-election legislation that will never work
Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the Mandalorian too
Pre-election legislation is insulting to you. Much of it won’t work, and the government knows it.
I’m enjoying the return to Westminster. I wasn’t sure if I would. Having put in a lot of effort to find balance, I was scared about losing my equilibrium. If the only thing your inner voice is talking about is how to win a political argument, you’re definitely out of balance.
The House of Lords has many people who have never had this kind of compulsive behaviour and a few who absolutely understand and like me, have been there and done that.
I feel dismayed when I look at the Commons and see that pre-election fervour is upon us. The legislation being railroaded through Parliament now is insulting your intelligence.
Forget the ideological differences. The law we’re making won’t work. I look at Rishi Sunak and realise he must hate some of the stuff being done in his government’s name, but he’s on the back of an electoral beast that he’s chosen not to control.
Take the Illegal Migration Bill, which places a new duty on the Home Secretary to remove those entering the UK by irregular means via a safe country.
In practice, this means almost everyone arriving by small boat from France, and over 85% of all irregular arrivals. The only exceptions to this duty are for people at risk of “serious and irreversible harm” and unaccompanied children until they turn 18.
The government is right to reduce Channel crossings as much as possible. It is a dangerous trend, perpetuated by organised criminals, that puts vulnerable people at extreme risk. But the prime minister’s pledge to “stop the boats” is unobtainable.
There is nothing Sunak can do to stop uncontrolled migration flows into the country. Many overlapping factors like geopolitical events and global economic trends impact the movement of asylum seekers.
No single piece of legislation will ever resolve this. Sunak knows this. Yet he’s prepared to use Parliament to paint an unrealistic picture of what can be achieved - consequently misleading the public.
Sunak is looking for a wedge. He wants to convince you that he is “stronger” on immigration than Keir Starmer.
The price of getting an electoral wedge with Labour is presenting a flawed Bill to Parliament that breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. So he is saying he doesn’t want our country to adhere to our international obligations.
Sunak also knows that the UK only has a limited number of removal agreements and does not have one with France. It’s actually worse post-Brexit as we are no longer part of the European Union’s Dublin Regulation which enabled some returns between European countries.
The Illegal Migration Bill gives the government the theoretical power to remove many people arriving in small boats. It could make it easier for the government to remove Albanians to their country of origin, which the government now deems “safe”. But it does not improve the government’s options for removing most people arriving irregularly, including those whose country of origin is not deemed “safe”.
This would include people from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan, who made up almost half (46%) of irregular arrivals in 2022. Unless the government is successful in negotiating and enacting more removal agreements, the potential of this legislation to help is severely limited.
Without increased capacity to remove people, it is likely tens of thousands of people will arrive in the country by small boat, be detained and be declared inadmissible for asylum in the UK, but with little prospect of removal from the country.
That Rwanda deal you keep hearing Suella Braverman banging on about, particularly on TV stations like GB News? Removals to Rwanda may not happen until March 2024 due to legal challenges. And even if the scheme is enacted, the Home Office says the country has the initial capacity to process only 200 people.
Last year more than 45,000 arrived by small boat. I won’t bore you with the eye-watering cost of removing people to Rwanda, but I’m sure you can imagine.
The government doesn’t say what it will do with these people. Will most remain in detention, and if so, for how long and to what end?
Some may be able to secure bail after the initial period of 28 days detention, but they will not be allowed into the asylum system and have no right to work in the UK – increasing the chances they experience poverty and destitution, which will require more acute and costly public services in the future.
What will the home secretary’s responsibilities be to these people? Assuming they are eligible for accommodation and support, it will only add to the demand for, and cost of, hotel accommodation.
I could tell you about many more flaws of this Bill, but by now, I hope you get the picture. This Bill is so bad that the Institute for Government has said it is hard to see how “this legislation will make a substantive difference to the practical realities of asylum and small boats crossings.”
Even with this Bill alone, you deserve to be irritated by the contempt your elected representatives are showing you. Yet when you add the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, the Pubic Order Bill, and the Bill of Rights Bill, you should be absolutely furious!
These pieces of draft legislation all have deep flaws because Rishi Sunak thinks it will help him win an election.
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Absolutely loving Exit Stage Left - the curious afterlife of pop stars by Nick Duerden. Nick has written some cracking profiles of people who enjoy pop stardom that then fades or ends. The Terence Trent D’Arby profile had me in fits of laughter. Robbie Williams comes out of it well. The most philosophical are Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand and Brian Nash of Frankie goes to Holywood. If you like your music, this book is a must-read or listen to.
Series three of the Mandalorian on Disney. It’s going off the boil, of course, but I’ve been in since series one, episode one and I can’t get out.
Destitute by Design: Trapped in the immigration system. Read it and weep. Then work out how you are going to vote Suella Braverman from office.
I’m back in the gym and absolutely on it. Is there a market for more details of my programme? I don’t want to bore everyone!