Politics that isn’t so clever 2023

The Illegal Migration Bill will remove the United Kingdom from the post-World War II international refugee system. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has referred to the new legislation as a de facto prohibition on asylum: people entering irregularly will have no right to seek asylum “regardless of how legitimate and compelling their claim may be, and without regard to their unique circumstances.” Europe’s far-right leaders have praised the bill, with Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, describing it as “tough but just.”

Political Dumbness

Theresa May is the proud architect of the hostile environment framework, which denies migrants access to essential services and requires the National Health Service, schools, and housing providers to operate as border guards. In the last decade, the argument has progressed so far that May is now an ardent opponent of the proposed measure, saying that victims of modern slavery would be among its ‘collateral damage’ May is not just more progressive than her own party on this new law, but also more progressive than a significant portion of the general public: according to an Independent survey, 42% of respondents approve the measure, and 44% think it makes them feel proud to be British.

Politics That Aren’t So Smart

From Harold Wilson’s Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1968 to Ed Miliband’s vow of “immigration curbs” etched in stone, Labour has virtually always been led by self-described pragmatists who view migrants’ rights as disposable. Jeremy Corbyn spoke at a Refugees Welcome demonstration in London on the day he was elected leader in 2015, despite abandoning support for freedom of movement in the 2017 platform. Now, the party is once again dominated by the progeny of New Labour, a group of professionals who take pleasure in their strategic thinking yet prioritize short-term compromise. Progressives are more likely to be able to reverse Republican policies, according to their argument, since they are more likely to win elections by going against the trend of popular discourse on matters such as immigration. This is considered intelligent politics.

The final effect of this astute strategy is a government with a defined ideological purpose and an opposition that lives in terror of challenging it in Westminster politics. Labour operates under the assumption that it must accept and bolster the Tory immigration framework. Immediately before to the introduction of the new Illegal Migration Bill, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, toured television studios to explain Labour’s proposal to “go after the criminal gangs” by establishing a specialized police unit. When the law was being considered in the legislature, Labour presented further proposals. A vital aspect of compliance with international law, the safe transit of migrants was not among them. Accelerating deportations and establishing new “return arrangements” with France were measures taken.

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