Reality barges into Small Boats Week

As commemorative weeks go, it’s been a bad one for Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman. They waited all year for Small Boats Week only to have it spoiled by Leftie Lawyers, so-called fire safety ‘experts’ and an outbreak of lethal bacteria. 

On top of that, they suddenly had half the country shouting at them about human rights, compassion and other foreign ideas after six people drowned in the Channel. 

Never mind that they had done what their base wanted and blocked safe passages for refugees, given the French state-of-the-art kit to harass the migrants and even bought the immigrants a yacht. 

Ok, not exactly a yacht but close enough, right? They spent £1.6bn and then, inexplicably, no one wanted to move into their Barge of Death. 

You have to feel for them – no one had ever organised a Small Boats Week before, so they were in uncharted waters. Even if they’d had a map, how could they be expected to know what ‘Danger – Rocks’ meant, let alone ‘Danger – Moral and Ethical Hazard’? 

You may accuse them of setting sail without, a skipper, a rudder or even a destination, but what you have to understand about the Tories is that their approach to disaster planning is quite literal. 

Whether you are talking about the Asylum Crisis, the Sewage Crisis, the Housing Crisis, the Cost of Living Crisis or the Climate Crisis, the government knows that failing to plan is the first step in winging it. It gives ministers, backbenchers and tabloid hacks free rein to make up policy on the hoof – what could possibly go wrong? 

You may fret that a backlog of 175,000 asylum cases, costing the government £6m a day in temporary accommodation fees, is a sure-fire indication that something has gone wrong with their immigration policy, but the government knows it’s money well spent. 

You see, they have a cunning plan. It turns out if you make them wait long enough, even the most desperate people in the world will give up hope, as evidence the fact that 55% of asylum cases that were ‘resolved’ in the first three months of 2023 were actually cases where the applicants withdrew their claims.

What’s more, the government knows as well as anyone that the global refugee crisis will only get worse with climate change, which is why they feel the urgent need to establish a precedent now by pushing back on the tide of desperation while it’s still small enough to manage.

What’s needed, of course, is a global immigration policy that would share the burden of settling the millions, possibly billions, of refugees who will soon be fleeing ecosystem collapse and political chaos, but the Tories know in their hearts that Britain, being an island, need never utter the phrase ‘global cooperation for the greater good’. 

Absent a global policy, Britain is in desperate need of a national policy, preferably one based on evidence and common sense, but don’t hold your breath. The phrase ‘Stop the small boats’ has graduated from mere slogan to religious catechism, something to be repeated over and over again to drown out the pernicious effects of rational critique. 

Even the seemingly obvious solution – hiring more staff to assess asylum claims – is submerged beneath the relentless waves of pseudo logic. Hiring more staff and improving the assessment process would result in more refugees being given settled status, which might sound like a good idea to the ordinary compassionate soul but Sunak and Braverman, in their fevered imaginations, see not one but two traps in this. 

Firstly, they hallucinate that clearing the backlog will magically create more political strife in the countries from which refugees are fleeing, thus driving more migrants to seek sanctuary in the UK. 

Secondly, that refugees who gain settled status will become a drain on the public purse, as if people who were sufficiently motivated to flee their countries and make the perilous journey to the UK would be content to survive on the meagre rations which pass for state benefits. 

The idea that migrants might want to work – say, building homes, staffing the NHS or cleaning up our befouled environment, for instance – seems beyond the comprehension of our esteemed leaders. 

To them, it’s just another example of liberal nonsense – another foreign idea that can be safely ignored as it slowly sinks beneath the waves. 

* Tom Reeve is a Liberal Democrat councillor in Kingston upon Thames

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  • >” Even the seemingly obvious solution – hiring more staff to assess asylum claims – is submerged beneath the relentless waves of pseudo logic.”

    Even the obvious “solution” is based on pseudo logic; it does zero and may actually contribute to the belief there is nothing we can or need to do in addressing the real reasons people are moving…

    >” Firstly, they hallucinate that clearing the backlog will magically create more political strife in the countries from which refugees are fleeing…”
    I suggest asking some who has studied modern history, they should be able to cite several references where having countries willing to accept “refugees” has encouraged the rulers to crackdown and force people to flee, so no hallucination.

  • “55% of asylum cases that were ‘resolved’ in the first three months of 2023 were actually cases where the applicants withdrew their claims”

    Or more likely they were amongst over 6000 claims that the Home Office withdrew, which they are allowed to do without the applicants consent even if they fail to contact them first. This notionally reduces the backlog but resulted in the Home Office being accused of ‘cooking the books’. More claims were withdrawn than actually processed….

  • George Thomas 14th Aug '23 - 9:07pm

    As a genuine question, what is the Lib Dem plan for increased number of people wanting to come to the UK both as migrants and asylum seekers?

    There’s been a number of posts over past few weeks that recognises that as world becomes a more dangerous place due to climate change, and other factors – continuing to sell weapons for one, that there will be an increase in number of people arriving in the UK looking to stay here.

    At the moment every Tory plan has been significantly less than satisfactory: unsafe former army barracks; transporting all to an unsafe country; hotels in small towns where 100 people lose their job and local economy takes massive hit; offshore barrage which carries fire risk.

    Lib Dems recently have faced criticism from some for winning seats in south of England with a NIMBY attitude to housing and opposing massive infrastructure investment like HS2. It’s not the base from which I can see a plan of how to support ever increasing number of people arriving and local people wanting to support them.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Aug '23 - 9:17am

    Thank you for differentiating the refugee question!
    1) Simplify, clarify and fully staff the administrative systems
    2) Enable the accepted refugees to settle well into our socio-economic system
    3) Encourage and enable them and everyone else to be prosocial in their leisure and their work
    4) investigate, plan and work nationally and internationally to clarify causes of immigration
    5) Work with initiative, cooperation and drive to better manage them

  • Suzanne Fletcher 15th Aug '23 - 9:17am

    Our party has a lot of important, feasible, radical and even party approved policy on this dreadful crisis, but I am not hearing it. We know the media do not highlight what we say, but do members know.
    On the LD4SOS website there are papers based on policies on for instance radical reform of Home Office decision making and Humanitarian Visas. But who knows?
    I am not at home at the minute to give the link, but they are there.
    Just before leaving home early Sunday morning I sent this letter to The Guardian. Not printed but maybe someone with more clout than me with the time could rewrite.
    Dear Sirs
    Last week was “Small Boats Week” as in your many articles with facts and views.
    What is not being talked about though is introducing Humanitarian Visas. If our Government really cared they would work with the French authorities, and set up centres where those who are trying to get to the UK in dangerous ways, to be then spending months in variations of detention centres could make their claim whilst still on French soil.
    Surely a more humane, competent, just and even money saving way to “Stop the Boats”?

  • I do think the media (and the BBC in particular) have questions to answer about last week. Why did they do what the Tory Government wanted and let this pathetic “Small Boats Week” dominate the news, talk programmes, and phone ins the whole week?

    It was obvious that the whole thing was a stunt, yet the broadcast news media fell for it hook, line and sinker. Fortunately it backfired but I hope news Editors will look at the experience and think again before allowing themselves to be an echo chamber for crude party political propaganda.

  • Well said, Suzanne. The link for LD4SOS website is

  • Martin Gray 15th Aug '23 - 6:16pm

    “Enable the accepted refugees to settle well into our socio-economic system”…
    The question which will be posed in around 12 months time is – How many ? …
    606k net migration a year is not sustainable – neither is 2.5 billion a year spent on hotel accommodation…
    Hotels , army camps , university halls – have all met with bitter opposition locally ….Reality is a significant number of voters want asylum seekers returned forthwith….

  • Zachary Adam Barker 15th Aug '23 - 8:21pm

    I was deeply disappointed not to see any mention of liberal alternative policy to address this on the Lib Dem Facebook or Twitter/X accounts the entire week of “Small Boats Week”.

    Now our leadership may justify it by not pandering to government talking points.

    I am more cynical and believe this is our party’s leadership too afraid to make any noise about this issue, for fear it may endanger us targeting the Blue Wall.

    Where is the courage of our convictions? People are not morons. Counter bad policy which is obviously not working with better policy and explain why it is better.

    Meanwhile Labour is being reported as saying very little that is helpful or interesting on this topic.

    If we keep acting like a small party we will STAY being a small party.

  • Steve Trevethan 16th Aug '23 - 8:35am

    If, as it seems, politics involves choices, paradoxes, persuasion and reasonably sound knowledge, then the immigration questions are very political.

    Should our party’s policies be guided by (alleged/engineered ) public opinion or by what is decent behaviour and of probable benefit to our country?

    Do we wish our party to be passive and hope to float to a significant parliamentary proportion and then be unable to do anything even slightly radical to lessen the mess our country is in?

    At the least, might our party actively pursue accurate information on the immigrants, their problems and the benefits they could bring and cut through the brutal, negative, “showbiz” of the government’s current approach?

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