OPINION - The Standard View: Was the Rwanda Bill really worth the effort?

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Finally, the Rwanda Bill has got through Parliament. After interminable back and forth between Commons and Lords, and the expenditure of endless political energy and goodwill, the Prime Minister has got his way. Failed asylum seekers may now be sent to Rwanda, legal challenges allowing. But was it really worth it? So much effort for such a small return? The Bill had few friends. It was more of a token of willingness to deal with irregular migration than a substantive policy. It confused and divided many of the Conservatives’ own supporters. The legal device of using a bill to declare a country safe was unprecedented. Certainly the problem of people arriving illegally has got worse — over 6,000 to date this year. And as our tragic story today about the migrants who drowned at sea shows, the human cost is enormous.

The real problem is that for voters in general and Tory voters in particular, the Rwanda Bill did not even attempt to deal with the main issue, which is the astonishing increase in legal migration which now stands at 1.2 million gross in the year to June 2023, or over 672,000 after you subtract the numbers of people leaving. By comparison with this figure, which is entirely within the Government’s control, the number of potential Rwanda deportations is trivial. It’s this that actually exercises voters.

But we should not assume that Labour’s approach to the issues would be better. The party has steadily opposed the Rwanda Bill, declaring that it would instead clear the backlog of asylum claimants and cooperate more closely with our neighbours. Certainly the backlog of claimants is far too big but there remains the problem of what to do with those whose claims are rejected, and to that Labour has no answer.

As for closer cooperation with the French, the Government is already spending enormous sums paying for the French to deal with the problem of would-be migrants in France. And what many French observers point out is that the pull factor here includes a lax regulatory environment in the labour market. But to that and to the bigger question of curtailing overall migration numbers, Labour has no answer.

Ta-ra, Erik

London has as many Manchester United supporters as Manchester — the joke is that when London clubs play Man U the chant is, “We’ll race you back to London” — so London’s voice should be heard in calling for the manager, Erik ten Hag, to step down. Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final win over Championship side Coventry, only by a whisker, may have been compulsive viewing — in a bad way — but it should have sealed Ten Hag’s fate. It would be kinder for Sir Jim Ratcliffe to dispense with his services now. This is a team going headlong in the wrong direction. Ta-ra, Erik.