Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Big Tech aficionado, retired merchant banker and hedge fund manager, offered this up, under oath, at the Covid Inquiry when asked about the lack of Whats App messages he had delivered when it was apparent that the government of the day used the channel for much of its "private" communication.
I'm a trusting fellow with an endearing, if somewhat naïve, faith in my fellow human beings, but even my elastic gullibility has been stretched too far to swallow this. At Goldman and as a fund manager, Rishi would have been subject to rigorous IT training and security. Never mind lives, lax security could lose money, and those guys take money very seriously. Mr Sunak has married into a wealthy family whose wealth largely derives from their software and IT support companies. Yes, IT support. The sort of company that's, well, pretty good with stuff like tech security. As a government minister, our man Rishi would have been briefed on stringent IT security policies. There are government agencies that get very uptight about that sort of thing - with ministers certainly, and prime ministers especially.
I know, I know, big news. Politicians lie. Stu's finally caught up. Working with Boris Johnson would have made it hard to do anything else.
Alright. If, as a recovering Tory, I'm not allowed to get indignant about dishonesty in the government, I must be allowed to rail against political stupidity.
I refer to small boats, one of Rishi's five pledges. He's going to stop the small boats. The small boats are jam-packed with migrants determined to live in the UK. Most of them seem to have paid significant sums of money to people smugglers, who give them a briefing, bung them in a dinghy and say, "Row that way", pointing vaguely towards Dover. The briefing stresses that once picked up by the police, the would-be immigrant should tell them that he is fleeing persecution. Thirty thousand people will arrive in the UK this way in 2023, give or take. Rishi wants to stop them.
He keeps telling me that "the country" wants them stopped. Really? Has the population been taken against people who use small boats? It seems a bit niche.
I will go out on a limb here and suggest that "the country" is concerned about the 1.2 million immigrants who arrived in the UK in the year ending June 2023. Read that again. 1.2 million. For those not paying attention, that's more than 30,000.
Why is the country concerned? Where are these people going to live? How are they going to live? Are we giving them handouts? Are they going to take our jobs? Will they bring their families over? What about school places? Doctor's appointments? Have you tried to see a dentist lately? The country's full! The country's broken. So goes the narrative.
For clarity, I hypothesise that nobody gives a flying toss about the method of transport used. Further, I venture that the wish is that Rishi would deal with the 1.2 million. In fact, "the country" might be pretty chilled about the remaining 30,000. All the fuss about the small boats is that classic conjurer's trick - distraction. It has become an accepted maxim that discussing migration in any positive way is political suicide.
Now, as 1.2 million arrived in the UK, 508,000 left. So, net migration is currently 712,000 or thereabouts. The latest report from the Office of National Statistics indicates that there are currently 950,000 job vacancies in the UK. Vacancies that are not getting filled. So, brace yourself - but the truth is, the UK needs immigration. All the politicians know that, of course, but damned if they'll let the truth get in the way of an excellent vote-winning narrative. (According to the focus groups, at least.) So, rather than engage in discussions about how immigration is positive, even essential for the country's welfare, Rishi chooses to keep letting people in unless they're in a small boat heading across the channel. That way, he can keep the immigrants coming and sound like he's being tough on immigration.
So desperate is he to follow this course he's just passed a law that says, "Rwanda is safe because we said so." No. Really, that's the substance of the law. Why do we care whether Rwanda is safe? Well, wait for it, you're going to like this. When the coastguard picks up a load of migrants in the channel, we will give them some supper and put them up on a barge in Dorset for a bit before flying them to a small country in Africa while their asylum claim is considered. If the claim proves to be successful, boom! Welcome to Rwanda! If not, it's a long walk back to Calais. (4,000 miles or so.)
It's utter nonsense, and everyone knows it. It's a policy scribbled on the back of a napkin while Johnson was knocking back the claret at a Downing Street party in the middle of a lockdown. In a beautiful irony, days before becoming Home Secretary, responsible for the implementation of the policy (to his great surprise), James Cleverly, the then Foreign Secretary, was heard describing it as "bat-shit crazy". He was right. It is, by absolutely any measure, illegal. It costs an absolute fortune and won't work. If it did work, it would have zero impact on either migration or the small boats. Perhaps most importantly, it's repugnant.
Unchecked migration is scary. It is a conversation that all nations should be having. But nobody believes the answer is flying would-be immigrants 4,000 miles on an aeroplane to Rwanda.
Rishi certainly doesn't. He's lying.
I wish him well in his new role based in Silicon Valley. I'm happy to waive any requirement for gardening leave.
Call an election and get yourself gone.
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