7 March 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Sunak should rule out ever restoring Hancock’s Conservative whip
  • Small boats ‘vanity project’ bill trashes UK’s reputation

Sunak should rule out ever restoring Hancock’s Conservative whip

The Liberal Democrats are calling on Rishi Sunak to rule out ever restoring Matt Hancock’s Conservative Whip after the latest set of leaked WhatsApp messages. The messages show Hancock threatening to block a disability centre in a Conservative MP’s seat in an attempt to force him to vote for the new Covid tier system.

This is yet another shocking revelation from the Lockdown Files which raises even more concerns about Matt Hancock’s integrity and credibility. Matt Hancock threatening to withhold funding for a new disability hub if an MP didn’t vote in a certain way is shocking. These messages prove Matt Hancock breached the ministerial code.

Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party are too busy trying to save themselves from scandal to scandal rather than dealing with soaring food bills and an NHS on its knees. There is no place in politics for this threatening kind of behaviour. The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Prime Minister to order an inquiry into whether other Conservative MPs are using similar behaviour.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

This is a clear breach of the Ministerial Code. It’s sickening that Matt Hancock that would even consider withholding funding from an MP if they didn’t vote how he wanted them to.

Rishi Sunak should do the right thing and immediately rule out Matt Hancock having the Conservative Whip restored.

The Government also need to launch an inquiry into whether other Conservative ministers have been using similar distasteful threats.

These leaked messages prove this Conservative Government is unfit to govern and are riddled in chaos.

Small boats ‘vanity project’ bill trashes UK’s reputation

Responding to the Home Office Secretary’s Oral Statement outlining the Government’s new Illegal Migration Bill, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

Surely a law that is designed to circumvent human rights laws is not one that is fit for purpose? The UK has a proud history of offering sanctuary to those in need of international protection, but the Conservatives are more intent on trashing that legacy than ever before.

Just like their botched Rwanda plan, this new legislation is immoral, ineffective and incredibly expensive for the taxpayer. It does nothing to punish the evil gangs who are responsible for these dangerous crossings, and instead criminalises their victims.

This is not a practical or sustainable solution, it’s another vanity project for this Conservative Government. The only way to stop these dangerous crossings is to create safe and legal routes for refugees so small boats are not their only option.

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  • Jenny Barnes 8th Mar '23 - 9:20am

    It’s not designed to actually work. It’s performative nonsense aimed at grabbing the news cycle away from things that actually matter, like energy costs, food costs, strikes, the Ukraine war, sewage in rivers, etc. Yunno, real things that affect real people, that – whodathunkit – the Tories have no idea how to deal with. All they’ve got is pretending someone – the judges, the woke, the blob, the ECHR or whoever are interfering with their wonderful plans. We can expect a lot more of demonising vulnerable minorities before the next election, sadly.

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Mar '23 - 9:54am

    Re Jenny’s comment…

    There has been talk in the media of safe routes to asylum being brought in – the government might be rather more credible if they did that first before all this Stop the Boats nonsense. But I’m not holding my breath.

  • Jenny Barnes I totally agree. Presumably the timing of the fantasy scheme is intend to help them with the council elections. This requires a robust response from our spokespersons and offers a real opportunity to establish a clear Liberal message and distance the party from Starmer’s equivocal position. Alistair Carmichael has set a lead we would all do well to follow.

  • Martin Gray 8th Mar '23 - 12:47pm

    Make no mistake – the forthcoming asylum bill will resonate with those voters that handed Johnson an 80+ seat majority…Coupled with a compliant media , the blame will be directed elsewhere…
    Having said that 40k+ housed in hotels across the UK , with a significant number of local residents bitterly opposed – it’s easy to reel off the usual , work more closely with France , safer routes etc etc …With our Social housing register at 1 million + & people struggling to meet the basics . It’s understandable people are angry …The perception is that those in progressive parties would be considerably ‘softer’ when it comes to asylum seekers…

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Mar '23 - 1:29pm

    “the forthcoming asylum bill will resonate with those voters that handed Johnson an 80+ seat majority”
    exactly. Don’t blame us that you’re starving in a freezing house, likely to be homeless etc, blame those “illegal” immigrants etc.

  • Andrew Tampion 8th Mar '23 - 4:35pm

    ” Don’t blame us that you’re starving in a freezing house, likely to be homeless etc, blame those “illegal” immigrants etc.”
    First. If there aren’t enough houses for non refugees then allowing in more refugees just makes a bad situation worse. If allowing in more refugees has the effect of further reducing social housing availability then making it harder for voters who can’t get affordable homes to do so is a big ask. That is, I think, Martin Grey’s point.
    Second. Even if the Tories have primary responsibility for the lack of housing neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats can absolve themselves. Any party that has been in government over the last 50 years has to accept a fair share of responsibioty.

  • ” It does nothing to punish the evil gangs who are responsible for these dangerous crossings
    The only way to stop these dangerous crossings is to create safe and legal routes for refugees so small boats are not their only option”

    I suspect Alistair Carmichael hasn’t got a clue as to how this might be achieved with say Albania, reported to be the source of the majority of those attempting to cross the channel…

    I also suspect Alistair has no answers that stand up to scrutiny, to the points Martin and Andrew are raising. Although I do agree with Jenny, this is all about electoral sound bites.

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Mar '23 - 5:44pm

    Safe legal routes would involve refugees being able to apply for asylum without having to enter the UK first, removing the motive for trying to get here in a small boat.

    That would include any Albanians wishing to claim asylum. According to https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/factsheet-small-boat-crossings-since-july-2022/factsheet-small-boat-crossings-since-july-2022
    “Nonetheless, this year, 7,627 Albanians (year-ending June 2022) claimed asylum in the UK, more than double the number in the preceding year (3,578).”

    Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go after the gangs bringing people to the UK in small boats. I perceive many of those who come that way are being horribly exploited when they get here.

  • George Thomas 8th Mar '23 - 6:33pm

    The only way the small boat policy may work is if genuine asylum seekers starts to see the UK as such a horrible and unsafe place that they don’t chose here. I’m not sure making the UK a horrible and unsafe place is a win.

    If Tories were serious about reducing numbers of people coming here they would be committed to international aid and radical, effective, climate emergency policies. Far too basic an analysis but as natural resources deplete and desperation takes hold, then there will be an increase in ‘strong-man’ leaders either persecuting a community or pushing their nation to war. Only by reducing the want for ‘strong-man’ and increase of resources round the globe will reduce see number of asylum seekers fall.

    This policy is just trying to make far-right talking point, something Labour don’t want to speak about, part of mainstream conversation. Again.

    Oh, and I still dislike how much credit Telegraph and Oakeshott are getting for their stage-managed leaks. Hancock’s no talent but stop giving credibility to sector of journalism which doesn’t deserve any. When they come at the Lib Dems and are listened to, well you’ll only have yourselves to blame.

  • George Thomas 8th Mar '23 - 6:43pm

    Correction to my post above:

    When I typed, “This policy is just trying to make far-right talking point, something Labour don’t want to speak about, part of mainstream conversation. Again.”

    I didn’t quite realise how keen Starmer, Mandleson and co were to chasing center-right votes. Apparently making far-right talking points part of the conversation just allows Labour to argue they’d be more effective, very slightly softer, at doing the same thing.

    Maybe the small-boat policy will work in making the UK such a horrible and unsafe place that asylum seekers chose elsewhere and economic migrants do too?

  • @ Nonconformistradical
    Sorry for being too concise. My unspoken point was more about post-referendum, covid etc politics, which I feel have massively downgraded political rhetoric or opened people’s eyes to its emptiness. As far as I am concerned rubbishing the (rubbish) proposal isn’t going to get you my vote.
    I think Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown understood this in the way they addressed and engaged the public via the media.

  • The obvious alternative policy is to take France up on its (repeated) offer of allowing the Home Office to open an office in Calais. There people seeking asylum in the U.K. could lodge their applications for asylum and then be safely transported across the Channel by ferry where their applications could then be processed.

    Were the LibDems to advocate such an alternative policy, it would highlight the fact that the issue isn’t the people risking their lives crossing the Channel (the overwhelming majority of whom are granted asylum if they make the crossing), but rather the unwillingness of the Conservatives to process applications for asylum in an efficient and impartial manner.

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Mar '23 - 7:26am

    Social housing availability has severely diminished because of Thatcher’s “right to buy” policy. Every government since has of course been complicit in maintaining it, so it’s a bit of a stretch to blame that shortage on refugees.

  • @jenny “bit of a stretch”… well given the BBC bias outcry on Gary Lineker’s comments, I would suggest not that much of a stretch for the current government and its supporters.

  • Andrew Tampion 9th Mar '23 - 1:14pm

    Jenny. It’s not a question of blaming refugees for anything, the shortage of housing including social housing in particular.
    However since there is a shortage of housing anyway the effect of allowing in more refugees will be to further reduce the housing options of non refugees. This is not a vote winner. Nor is it fair on refugees to leave them in sub-standard accomodation for years.
    I can only speak for myself; but I suspect that most readers and commentators on this thread don’t live in social housing and are in fact quite comfortably off. For someone like me, who owns my own house outright with no mortgage to say to someone who can’t find suitable accomodation, or whose children can’t find suitable and affordable accomodation that they will have to wait for even longer in sub-standard housing would be arrogant.

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Mar '23 - 2:09pm

    “It’s not a question of blaming refugees for …. the shortage of housing ”
    Actually, that’s precisely what it is. The governments in power since 1979 created and supported the”right to buy” policy which led to the shortage. But “Don’t blame us. Look at all those refugees” is what they are playing. It’s a well known populist move.
    They’ll be blaming refugees for overwhelming the NHS next, completely ignoring that their policies led to many NHS staff leaving to return to their EU homes.

  • Yes Andrew you are right, that the UK is now having to face up to some rather big internal issues that whilst directly attributable to 40+ years of Conservative mindset, won’t be acknowledged as such and as Jenny is noting, are being scapegoated on to anyone else – just like we often see in Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice board room confrontations directly before the “you are fired” closer.

    Hence our capacity to attend to external affairs and the affairs of others is greatly constrained. That is before we also take on-board our need to support Ukraine (which is likely to escalate as Russia also gets closer to the march 2024 presidential election) and worrying events concerning Argentina and the Falklands (I get a sense of opportunism).

    I think Paul’s idea has some merit, particularly if combined with passage to Rwanda to attend UK orientation whilst awaiting the processing of their application, then many would see a hardline against the boat crossings as being reasonable.

  • The 1951 ‘UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees’ was agreed after several years of negotiations. Inevitably, its main preoccupation was what to do about the many displaced in WW2 and washed up in some other, mainly European, country. The solution, very sensibly, was essentially to allow them to stay wherever they were.

    But when the World changes, laws need to follow suit, or they will fail. If the Red Flag Act were still in force, that too would cause problems!


    In 1951 international travel was ruinously expensive, and communication was snail’s pace so I doubt anyone imagined the Convention might ever enable mass migration but, with cheap travel and instant communication, that’s exactly what it does creating a situation that’s unsustainable – environmentally, economically, and politically.

    A related issue is that the Convention doesn’t, and the authorities can’t, distinguish between economic migrants and refugees once they’re here.

    So, we should require would-be migrants to apply at the nearest practical British Embassy to their source country, stating whether they are economic migrants or political refugees in their application. Each group should have different rights. Both groups could travel legally.

    This, or something like it, will happen. When it does, I anticipate that other countries will quickly adopt variants of it. A lot less people will die in the Sahara or drown crossing seas. And we might even be able to catch upon housing provision!

  • Peter Davies 9th Mar '23 - 6:42pm

    Ultimately, this will only stop when most people would be happy staying in Albania. I believe the Ukraine war has increased the willingness of the EU to help them (and other Balkan nations) achieve this.

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