Immigration rhetoric without delivery won’t wash

This article is an on-site version of our Inside Politics newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday.

Good morning. Suella Braverman is the latest Conservative home secretary to talk tough on immigration, but that approach may well be running out of road. Some thoughts on that in today’s note.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to [email protected].

Not-so-magnificent seven

Suella Braverman is battling to save her job amid growing scrutiny over overcrowding and dangerous conditions at an immigration processing centre in Manston, Kent. Braverman also admitted she had used her personal email seven times for government business during her first stint as home secretary.

Then came her remarks that the Conservative party is “serious about stopping the invasion of our southern coast”. My general feeling is that “invasion” is a term best reserved for what is happening in Ukraine, not for people attempting to make a better life for themselves in the UK, whether they are seeking asylum or just a better standard of living.

But I think it’s worth asking ourselves: OK, let’s take Braverman seriously here. Is the British government acting with the appropriate seriousness for a government facing an “invasion” or frankly even a “crisis”? Visibly, the answer is “no”. To give you an idea of the scale of what “tackling” the problem would involve, try either this report by Harvey Redgrave, formerly of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, or this Twitter thread from Nick Timothy, formerly of Theresa May’s Home Office and Downing Street set-ups.

Is there anything comparable coming from Braverman? Not so much. Although the Conservatives’ difficulties on this issue predate her arrival at the Home Office by some distance, it contributes to one of the party’s big political problems: an Ipsos survey shows the Tories are now less trusted than Labour for handling immigration, historically one of the Conservative party’s advantages even during its struggles in the 1990s and 2000s.

And no wonder: if you continually talk about immigration and asylum while using words like “invasion”, you are obviously going to repel liberals. But if you do that while offering nothing in the way of concrete policy solutions, you are also going to repel anti-immigration voters, too.

Robert Jenrick, Sunak’s new immigration minister and ally (who the prime minister would surely prefer to have as home secretary), struck a different tone on Sky News this morning. “In a job like mine, you have to choose your words very carefully,” said Jenrick. But the problem for both him and Sunak is that their government’s policies are going to be judged in part by the standards Braverman sets and the words she uses. Even if they one day manage to free themselves from their uneasy cohabitation with Braverman, her presence will linger on.

If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat

Speaking of repelling voters . . . George Parker has some crucial details from Jeremy Hunt’s coming budget. Broad-based tax rises and spending cuts are on the way:

When former Tory chancellor George Osborne imposed austerity in the wake of the banking crisis at the start of the last decade, he carried out a fiscal consolidation with an 80 to 20 ratio of spending cuts to tax rises. Hunt is eyeing a mix that will be closer to 50 to 50, according to Treasury insiders.

I wrote last week that I still thought it was possible for the Conservatives to win the next election, and as one, you rose to say “Stephen, are you nuts?” Here are the results of our latest Inside Politics poll: about 76 per cent of you thought the chances were slim to non-existent, 5 per cent thought the Conservatives were more likely to win and 19 per cent were on the fence.

When we look at both the headline polling, but more importantly in my view, where the two parties are seen on issues, the pattern is pretty bleak. Here’s Opinium:

Note, again, that Labour lead over the Conservatives even on the traditionally Tory territory of immigration. But given the economic circumstances and blunders of the Liz Truss government, that small Tory lead in the economy department would give me a great deal of comfort if I were Rishi Sunak. If the UK economy feels like it is recovering by the time of the next election, that might just be enough.

That said, it surely hurts Tory hopes that the party talks about essentially everything, from immigration to crime to the NHS, as if the spending taps were about to come on, and not as if we were about to see a very austere spending round indeed for most of the public services.

Shameless self-promotion

My column this week is on Elon Musk and the importance of a digital “town square”.

Now try this

The thing I love most about the BBC is its music radio stations: Radio 3 and 6music in particular. Radio 3 had a wonderful eight-hour soundscape to mark the BBC’s centenary that I can’t recommend highly enough. You can listen to it on BBC Sounds.

Our Swamp Notes newsletter, which dissects the intersection of money and power in US politics, will be free to read online over the next two weeks. The FT’s senior US columnists Rana Foroohar and Edward Luce will be turning to the midterm elections across the country in its special daily editions. Find Swamp Notes here and catch up on the latest newsletter here.

On November 10, FT journalists and experts will host a subscriber-exclusive event on the US midterms. Register free today here and submit your questions in advance for our panel.

Top stories today

  • Hard winter | The head of National Grid has warned that many British households would find this winter “financially very, very hard”, despite government support to limit the rise in gas and electricity bills.

  • NIP it | Northern Irish politics are in gridlock — again. The UK government has said it will call fresh elections after a legal deadline to form an executive passed. But London has delayed setting a date for a new poll and political parties warn that elections may not restore the executive.

  • Cancer policy | The UK lags behind many comparable countries in cancer survival rates, according to a league table drawn up by leading international researchers, the first to draw a link between governments’ cancer strategies and the time people live after diagnosis.

  • Manston and the law | Barrister and writer Colin Yeo takes a close look at the law on short-term holding facilities — including Manston — for Free Movement, after a new report on the conditions there this morning by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Swamp Notes — Expert insight on the intersection of money and power in US politics. Sign up here

Britain after Brexit — Keep up to date with the latest developments as the UK economy adjusts to life outside the EU. Sign up here

Source link

Back to top button