Another Long Week in Politics that Makes the Heart Sink

Friday, 8 December 2023

Rwanda Bill – Fireworks Expected Next Week

The Rwanda Bill – full title Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill – really is quite an extraordinary reading and has nosedived the Tory Party further into crisis, both in terms of its leadership and the timing of a general election.

The Bill (here) will come before Parliament next Tuesday and is essentially legislation to say ‘white is black and black is white’. A law to assert that Rwanda is a safe country to send asylum seekers to, even though our Supreme Court found that it is not. It’s a bit like me legislating to say that I am an astrophysicist. Parliament can pass a law saying that if it wants, but it doesn’t make me an astrophysicist.

Next week is set to produce more political psychodrama now that Tory MPs from both wings of the Tory Party have had a taste for rebellion. Sunak’s party is ill-disciplined, with 22 of his MPs rebelling this week on a vote about the victims of the infected blood scandal and inflicting defeat. The question, now, is "how long can this lame duck PM survive?"

The electoral implications are now even more complex. The very idea that they could elect a sixth Tory PM since 2016 is extraordinary and exposes that the Conservatives will do anything to stay in power, irrespective of the cost to the country and people’s priorities. (Note that in UK history, there have only been six Labour Prime Ministers). The opposing opinions are a general election as early as February 2024 or a new PM going to the last possible date of 28 January 2025

What is extremely worrying is that we have a party in government that has abandoned all respect for the rule of law and separation of powers essential to the proper functioning of a democracy. The fact that three PMs have been found guilty of attempting to put themselves above the law by the highest court in our country also seriously damages our international standing and reputation.

The Human Rights Act the Conservatives are attempting to override enshrines rights that protect our most British values. We drew up these rights as a template for the whole of Europe after the second world war, and all its horrors. It just goes to show what a horrendous position we have got to in this country that our government wants to disapply rights such as the right to life, the right to a family life, the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, right to a fair trial. Getting rid of these rights is redolent of Viktor Orban and Erdoğan – there is nothing remotely British about it.

Small Boats, Big Headache of The Government’s Own Making

I have had a look at Suella’s speech in detail, and apart from the toxicity and right-wing rhetoric we have come to expect from Mrs Braverman, I agree with one thing she said, “All (asylum seekers on small boats) have come from a safe country, France, which — let us face it — should be doing so much more to stop them.”

The irony of Brexit it that we now have leading Brexiteers complaining that there is not sufficient European co-operation. They don’t seem to realise that it was them that tore apart the bonds of trust, and everyone is suffering as a result.

It is, of course, Brexit that threw away the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The objective, of which, was that wherever someone applied for asylum in the EU, the outcome would be similar. It also provided safe, legal routes for reunifying separated refugee families in Europe.

Professor Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government, at Durham University produced a comprehensive report into the issue of asylum seekers using small boats to cross the Channel to Britain. A key finding of the 55-page report is that the Government's Brexit deal is a primary factor and that there are no records of any individuals travelling by small boat to the UK to claim asylum in 2017 or before. The report can be found here and is worth reading.

£290 million! No government should have an open chequebook

We found out today that, so far, this ridiculous Rwanda scheme has cost us, the taxpayer, £290 million without a single flight taking off. To justify the money, Ministers are now claiming "we have always been clear that this is an economic and migration partnership." No, they haven’t! And what about the economic partnership with the thousands of UK businesses struggling across our country? So added to an abandonment of the respect for the rule of law, Conservatives have also abandoned fiscal responsibility.

One of our True & Fair policy proposals is for the establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office that would inform Parliament of budgetary implications by providing independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy, and the financial implications of proposals.

See our other policy proposals here.

Boris Johnson at Covid Inquiry

What Johnson’s evidence again exposes, is his fundamental unsuitability to be prime minister. His ambition to hold that office was not matched by the temperament required to succeed. And it is a stroke of terrible misfortune for our country that we happened to have him in charge during this great national and international moment of peril when seriousness and willingness to engage with detail were needed.

Britain needed an ace Prime Minister during the pandemic, but it got a joker. Someone who blustered about shaking hands with Covid patients spoke about letting bodies pile high and oversaw rule-breaking on a grand scale in Downing Street. I’ve said before that his three years as prime minister will take this country thirty years to recover from. But this week reminded us of the tragic loss of life and millions still suffering from bad decisions taken during COVID-19.

But one must question the process, costs and manner in which this inquiry is being conducted. An inquiry that is not likely to be concluded until 2026.

In Sweden, their government established a national COVID-19 Commission in late June 2020 to examine how Sweden handled the pandemic. Interim reports were published in 2020 and 2021 with a final report in February 2022. The Commission’s recommendations for elderly care, a review of postponed and delayed healthcare in 2020 (for instance, diagnosed myocardial infarctions and certain cancer screening decreased), and recommendations to strengthen pandemic preparedness is far more useful than what we are hearing at our lengthy and costly inquiry.

Hillsborough Law

This week the government finally responded to campaigners for the 97 Liverpool fans who died because of a crush at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield during the club's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989.

Half a lifetime spent campaigning for justice, was dismissed by the government in just a few minutes. Campaigners had called for legislation to introduce a legal "duty of candour" on public authorities and officials to tell the truth. The government's decision not to introduce this Hillsborough Law is an absolute insult and, because the issue isn’t going to go away, will be a test for Keir Starmer - will he legislate for that duty of candour if and when he comes to office?

This is a government which is pathologically unable to acknowledge the truth. For them, Brexit is a raging success; Rwanda is a safe country; and Boris Johnson is a great man who did his best. So I’m not surprised that they don’t want to legislate for this duty of candour.

To improve accountability, responsibility, and redress for those in public office, True & Fair policy proposals include:
- Putting the Nolan Principles into law
- Introduce a legally binding duty of candour – a duty for government and public authorities to tell the truth.
- Legally define the propagative powers

See all our policies here

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The Tories are running a mile from such suggestions. What Labour decide to do on these matters will speak volumes of what sort of government they will be.

Brexit

Last Sunday Keir Stamer penned yet another article for The Sunday Telegraph in which he said, the Tories “have failed to realise the possibilities of Brexit”. I, like so many others, was deeply depressed to read this. Out of frustration I wrote an Op-Ed in response for the New European, in which I say:

“Brexit is not a lightning rod for possibilities. It is a guillotine which slammed down on our country’s future and our children’s chances. To talk about “opportunities missed” is the equivalent of trying to do a stupid thing well. I’m sure Sir Keir knows full well that such an approach is half-baked.”

Full Article

If I were to be elected as MP for Epsom and Ewell, remainers and rejoiners would have a relentless champion in Westminster holding whoever is in government’s feet to the fire on Brexit but on so much more.

In The Media