This article originally appeared in our Elevenses newsletter.
Good afternoon. Conservative MPs plastered pictures of empty dinghies moored on a beach across their Twitter accounts on Tuesday morning after they collectively gave the Illegal Immigration Bill safe passage through parliament on its second reading. The small inflatable vessels, which are now deemed more threatening than soaring inflation, crippling energy prices and a flatlining economy to some voters thanks to excessive media spin, have become the focus of the government’s ire as they seek to distract voters away from domestic issues which, seemingly by their own admission, they have no plan to fix. The pictures were festooned with the words ‘I’ve voted to stop the boats’ and promises to make the only route to the UK the ‘legal route’, or no route, if that avenue doesn’t actually exist.
The pictures bore a striking resemblance to images that were strewn across across Facebook accounts ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum telling tea-loving Brits that the EU wants to “ban tea kettles”, that the bloc is threatening the welfare of polar bears or that the impending ascension of Turkey could lead to unsustainable levels of migration. They too used a simple, pithy one-liner on top of an image and were distributed en masse thanks to the scrupulous data mining activities of Cambridge Analytica with just one teeny tiny snag; They were all made up, nothing more than products of a vast library of ‘Euromyths’ that had been used by the media to poke Brits for years – curvy banana, anyone? – in order to distract voters from the fundamental issues.
Suella Braverman’s Illegal Immigration Bill is constructed on a similar bed of lies. As we pointed out last week, it’s Deepfake legislation pretending to be something it is not. The real purpose of the bill is simply to “shift the blame for illegal immigration from the Home Secretary to whichever campaign group challenges the bill” in a bid to relieve themselves from taking any meaningful action. Last night, only Paul Blomfield of Labour had the nous to point this out, saying: “This bill is even more cruel [than previous legislation]. But the central proposition remains the same: to defeat people smugglers by criminalising their victims. It’s not designed to work. But to create the illusion of action.” Others, notably even on the Tory benches, pointed out that it was an inhumane solution, although they failed to use their vote to, you know, oppose it.
But here’s another consideration that may offer those of a more compassionate disposition a bit of hope. New research has found that anti-immigration sentiment has plummeted in the UK over the past few years, with Britain now the nation least hostile to immigrants among developed nations. Among other findings, the research showed that there have been “huge declines in the belief that the UK-born population should take priority over immigrants when jobs are scarce” and a rapid decline in the number of people who support a closed-borders policy. The historic data would coincide with voting intention numbers released after the fiery debate in parliament last week, which saw the Conservatives shed another 3 per cent from its supporter base.
Call me a dreamer, but there could be a small possibility here that the Tories are shouting at an increasingly small, polarised section of society and that even if their deranged bill clears the various political and legal hurdles the average voter won’t even want it. If that proves to be the case, then it really is curtains for an increasingly out-of-ideas Conservative Party.
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