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Johnson’s Rwanda plan is canny politics

Home Secretary Priti Patel signing the Rwanda migrant deal. Simon Wohlfahrt/AFP/Getty

Boris Johnson’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is “canny on several fronts”, says Clare Foges in The Times. Not only is it a distraction from the PM’s Partygate fine, it has “roused the Tories’ usual culture war enemies to rage”. Jeremy Corbyn calls it “beyond cruel”, Caroline Lucas “vicious and grotesque”, Nicola Sturgeon “despicable”. The Archbishop of Canterbury also weighed in, calling the scheme “ungodly”. But what the critics “curiously” ignore is that those attempting to cross the Channel could choose to stay in France. They may be fleeing a country of “haughty Parisians and terrible pop music”, but it’s hardly a war zone. And the critics’ tacit acceptance of the status quo means we’re subcontracting our asylum policy to people smugglers.

The scheme doesn’t exactly make you want to “wrap yourself in the Union flag and start singing Jerusalem”. It’s unlikely to work and will trigger endless rows with lawyers and human rights organisations. There are in fact only two effective solutions to the migrant problem: turn back the boats, or clamp down on Britain’s black economy with a national ID card system. In the meantime, though, Johnson will have “earned credit” with a core vote which clamours for hardline policies, while also not being able to enact a policy that he – “instinctively softer on immigration” – probably doesn’t like much anyway. However much the left hate it, “for Johnson this policy is a win-win-win”.