How dangerous for Boris is Nigel?
The first anniversary of Boris Johnson’s prime ministership didn’t bring him good news. Firstly, having already clocked up Europe’s worst coronavirus death toll (46,526 at the time of writing), it emerged that the UK has had Europe’s highest ‘excess deaths’, the measure the British government says is the most reliable. Johnson can expect poor marks from voters on competence. Secondly, a poll showed that the percentage of people critical of his handling of immigration jumped from 44 per cent in March to 62 per cent this month. This reflects the 4,000+ illegal migrants who’ve reached British shores across the Channel so far this year – twice as many as 2019 and over seven times the figure for 2018. And the revelation that the government doesn’t have a clue how many illegal immigrants there are in the UK (perhaps around 1.2 million).
Boris Johnson encouraged hope that he’d change the trajectory of the previous nine years of soft-left Conservative-majority government. His clarity on Brexit pleased the Tory base and his direct, often colourful language seemed to set him apart from his two politically correct Tory predecessors. But despite remaining firm on Brexit – final departure on 1 January, no submission to EU regulations, no continued unrestricted EU fishing in UK waters – Johnson is disappointing many Tory voters. A year ago he warned illegal immigrants ‘we will send you back’. About 5 per cent have been. He appears uniquely hesitant about pushing illegal immigrants back into the neighbouring states from which they’ve come. France pushes about a hundred back into Italy every day.
As reported in this column last year, Boris Johnson, while mayor of London, told Coalition staffers during the 2013 Australian election campaign that he disagreed with the stop-the-boats commitment. So it’s not surprising that his government can’t bring itself to contemplate seriously Tony Abbott’s spectacularly successful turn-back solution, even though it was judged legal by our courts and involved zero casualties. Johnson is out of step with the majority British view that there are too many people in the country. He’s advocated allowing many illegal immigrants to stay and abandoned his two predecessors’ commitment to reducing annual immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.
When it comes to issues which infuriate the average Tory voter, Britain’s right-on police run a close second to immigration. Astonishingly they often seem beyond the control of the elected government. Home Secretary Priti Patel has made no secret of her anger about police recently co-operating with climate extremists in shutting down Cambridge and looking on while protestors destroyed and vandalised public monuments. Her reprimands appear to have had no effect and the police carry on as a law unto themselves.
It’s hard to find any publicly-funded institution in Britain which hasn’t been captured by the woke Left. Cambridge University defends freedom of speech when one of its academics, a woman of Asian descent, tweets ‘white lives don’t matter’ – after it blocked white male Jordan Peterson from working at the university following absurdly flimsy charges of racism. The NHS integrates the LGBTQ rainbow into its branding. Schools invite drag queens to perform before young children.
And of course the BBC carries on not only with its consistently leftist news commentary – its ‘27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests’ is now legendary – but in its self-appointed role as the country’s social engineer-in-chief. This includes its open commitment to manipulating the past for political purposes. Its head of drama, Piers Wenger, says the BBC must represent the country as it is now, not as it was, so must, for example, ‘repurpose’ classic novels by giving them non-white characters.
Writing soon after Boris Johnson’s victory, The Spectator’s associate editor Douglas Murray noted that Labour has long out-performed the Tories in promoting its supporters to run publicly-funded institutions. Amazingly, during the past decade of Conservative-majority rule, there have been more appointees with a Labour background than Conservatives. And after years of Conservative rule, James Purnell, a minister in Gordon Brown’s government, has been left as the BBC’s Director of Radio and Education.
As Murray argues, a Conservative government should ensure ‘that the cultural winds begin to blow the other way.’ Boris Johnson has done nothing about this, other than easing out a couple of anti-Tory senior civil servants. His ambivalent response to those who would tear down scores of statues – and his choice for a ministerial position of James Brokenshire, who co-operated with the Left in sacking Sir Roger Scruton, one of the few conservatives appointed to public positions over the past decade – reinforces a sense that these are battles Johnson isn’t interested in.
The politician who is attacking Boris Johnson most effectively is not Labour’s Keir Starmer, unconvincingly projected post-Corbyn as a moderate, but Nigel Farage. He’s escalated his criticisms of the government’s handlng of illegal immigration to claim that Johnson doesn’t have the political will to stop the boats. He’s probably right. The next elections could be four years away and it’s hard to imagine Farage winning power on his own. But if Johnson doesn’t get his act together, Farage could emerge with a new party to deprive the government of its majority, forcing a coalition requiring the Tories to shift from their current default soft-left positions to more recognisably conservative policies on a range of issues.
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