Labour’s Border Policy: King Canute Had More Chance Turning Back the Tide Than Starmer Stopping Small Boats

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Starmer’s Border Policy
Starmer’s Border Policy: King Canute Had More Chance Turning Back the Tides

Canute Redux: Starmer Grappling with Unstoppable Tides and Small Boats

As Sir Keir Starmer unveils his grand plans to tackle the small boats crisis, one can’t help but draw parallels to the mythical King Canute, arrogantly commanding the tides to halt their relentless advance. For all his bold proclamations, Starmer shows about as much chance of stemming the flow of asylum seekers as Canute did of turning back the ocean’s waves.

Starmer’s proposals, trumpeted as a radical departure from the Tories’ failures, amount to little more than a rehashed regurgitation of past recommendations – a £75 million gambit funded by pilfering from the disastrous Rwanda scheme budget. Employing a “border security commander” with direct access to the Home Secretary? Didn’t Priti Patel receive exactly such advice two years ago, only to let it gather dust on Whitehall’s shelves?

The plan’s centrepiece, a new investigative body consolidating disparate agencies, might theoretically enhance efficiency. But let’s be real – it’s merely rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic that is Britain’s broken asylum system. Shuffling bureaucracies and throwing money at the problem does precious little to address the root causes driving these desperate voyages.

Starmer unveiled new details of his plan in Dover alongside the new Red Tory local MP Natalie Elphicke, who defected from the Tories to Labour on Wednesday.

In a brief speech, Ms Elphicke took a shot at her former boss, claiming “nowhere is Rishi Sunak’s lack of delivery clearer than on the issue of small boats”.

Starmer-and-his-Tories
Labour leader Keir Starmer greets Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, after her defection from the Conservatives. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

For all Starmer’s tough posturing, his announcement will likely leave refugee charities and progressive Labour voices like Lord Dubs feeling decidedly underwhelmed. Where are the promised safe and legal routes for those fleeing war and persecution? Without viable alternatives, can we really fault them for risking the perilous Channel crossing?

The Tories, unsurprisingly, remain unimpressed – still clinging to their futile quest for an elusive “deterrent” to dissuade asylum seekers from their dangerous journeys. As if enhanced stop-and-search powers and internet restrictions will somehow outweigh the desperation driving their flight in the first place.

Those with intimate knowledge of the Home Office’s inner workings remain sceptical too. Does another “commander” really solve anything when the existing leadership struggles to cut through Whitehall’s bureaucratic inertia? Recycling failed Australian proposals hardly inspires confidence.

Peter Walsh, from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said Labour’s scheme was “unlikely to be a game changer”.

The plan “appears on the face of it to be pretty similar” to the current Small Boats Operational Command – the new military-led force which monitors and intercepts vessels attempting unauthorised entry into the UK via the Channel, he told BBC News.

“The devil will be in the detail,” he added.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have accused each other of creating an “amnesty” – generally understood to mean allowing all those entering the country illegally to stay with a full legal pardon.

Labour’s plans, which the Conservatives have dubbed an “amnesty for illegal immigrants”, will allow those arriving in the UK on small boats to apply for asylum – which is currently banned under the Illegal Migration Act.

Labour have repeatedly denied they have plans for an amnesty on those entering the country illegally.

If you can’t see how this all looks we’re in trouble. It’s feeding a populist politics that won’t end well.

While Starmer grandstands in Dover – that bastion of anti-immigrant sentiment now represented by a defector from the Tory ranks – his lack of substantive solutions speaks volumes. Immigration may be a political hot potato, but treating it as a cheap vote-winner rather than a complex humanitarian issue is a disservice to all.

The reality remains: until safe, legal routes and equitable asylum processing are established at the ‘EU borders’ desperate people will continue risking their lives on the high seas. Starmer’s posturing notwithstanding, he shows about as much chance of stemming that tide as King Canute did centuries ago.

Of course, as long as the British public continues witnessing streams of young men arriving on our shores, the political establishment will face relentless pressure to justify how a perceived stable democracy like France can be deemed by those leaving as an “unsafe country”—a country where refugees are willing to risk their lives in small boats to escape from.

The optics displayed of these able-bodied brave migrant men, making the perilous crossing while leaving their women folk behind in the war-torn homeland till they are economically settled feeds into the narrative propagated by reactionary forces – one that paints all asylum seekers as not desperate refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, but as economic migrants abusing Britain’s generosity.

If you cannot see how this entire debacle is cultivating a populist politics that will inevitably culminate in catastrophe, then you are wilfully blind. It is fomenting a xenophobic frenzy, one that the political establishment will be forced to placate through increasingly draconian measures – lest they be branded as “soft” on immigration.

Ultimately start building instead of bombing! That would be the first practical solution to any refugee crisis

Perhaps it’s time to start rolling up the trouser legs and embracing the inevitable deluge.

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