Gary Lineker, the ludicrously partisan Match of the day presenter, has been given an easy ride for too long by his cowardly BBC bosses. He has shamelessly spewed his Left-wing, anti-Brexit bile for years, making no secret of his dislike for Tories and their values, in flagrant disregard of the corporation’s impartiality requirements.
He has now gone full reductio ad Hitlerum on the government’s plan to tackle the small boats crisis, claiming that it was not merely “beyond awful” and “an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people” but used “language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.
As the great Leo Strauss was the first to argue in his Natural Right and Historyreferring to the Nazis in this way is cheap ad hominem argument, an anti-rational attempt to shut down discussion, a debating scam that logicians call the associative fallacy. It is also staggeringly ignorant, a cheapening of the horrors of the 1930s and a grievous, almost Orwellian, misrepresentation of what the Tories are trying to achieve.
Other Leftist demagogues soon joined in, claiming that a government whose relevant ministers are Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary (whose parents migrated from Kenya and Mauritius, and whose husband is Jewish), Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, whose Jewish children are the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, whose Jewish father came from Czechoslovakia in 1938, would not have allowed the children of the Kindertransport to come to Britain.
This is a grotesque calumny, a scurrilous attack on ministers seeking to tackle an urgent, complex problem, and an all too typical attempt to veto any rational discussion of modern migration pathologies. There can be no legitimate comparison between the Kindertransport – a wonderful, but tragically insufficient program under which 10,000 Jewish children were rescued from Nazi genocide – and the small boats arriving from France, a democracy where anyone who is eligible can claim asylum.
The vast majority of small boat arrivals today are young, male economic migrants; many are from Albania, a candidate for EU membership. They are brave and enterprising but they are trying to break the rules to enter with the help of people-smugglers. There are regular drownings: contrary to Lineker, it is those who encourage this deadly obstacle race who are guilty of cruelty.
Rishi Sunak wants to shut this route into Britain completely. Economic migrants will have to apply in the normal way. There will be a new “safe and legal” route for those seeking sanctuary, with MPs voting every year on how many to let in. Britain has already introduced resettlement schemes for Ukrainians, Hong Kongers and Afghans: arrivals from those three countries alone over the past year have been far greater than all previous records for annual asylum acceptances. Public opinion is strongly supportive of persecuted people but it has no truck with those who falsely claim to be in fear for their lives.
Those who keep shouting down any reform of the migration rules as “fascist”, or who point to the numbers of refugees absorbed by other countries as proof that we should do more, must look at the overall context. Britain has been extremely open to immigration: 16.8 percent of the population of England and Wales, or 10 million people, were born abroad. This is similar to Germany (17.3 per cent), higher than America (roughly 14 per cent), and much more than the EU average (10.6 per cent).
So why, given all of this, are many Left-wingers so apoplectic? The real reason is that for swathes of elite opinion any restrictions on migration are immoral and “far-Right”. They believe in completely open doors but are too scared to make the argument explicitly, so they oppose all attempts at combating illegal immigration. They pretend to buy into the idea that many small boat arrivals are fleeing modern slavery and support activist lawyers. They cannot admit that the post-1945 institutions dealing with migration and refugees are no longer fit for purpose.
Braverman said this week that “there are 100 million people around the world who could qualify for protection under our current laws”, triggering outrage by those who deliberately seek to misconstrue her. Her point is that the West’s system now only works because, in practice, many of those eligible to move do not do so, hardly a good basis for policy. In an era of cheap flights, growing prosperity, demographic shifts, environmental challenges and smartphones, we require modernized rules, conventions, courts and treaties that accept that seismic population movements could become more frequent, that there are limits to how many people the West can absorb, but that are also humane and committed to saving and harboring victims of tyranny and persecution.
I deeply respect principled advocates of open borders who believe in the oneness of humanity and refuse to compromise on individual liberty. The best modern case is that made by Bryan Caplan Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, a remarkably original non-fiction comic book. Caplan claims world GDP would double by boosting the productivity of hundreds of millions of economically under-utilized people as they move to rich nations, and do more for humanity as a whole than any other possible policy.
While a great read, Caplan’s plan for a Westernized, cosmopolitan utopia is unrealistic. Institutions would implode, with small countries, such as Israel, Cyprus or Switzerland, being the first to collapse. Our future lies in democratic nation-states with a strong shared identity, not incoherent technocratic empires. These depend on strict requirements for citizenship and integration and, yes, that means limits on immigration, choosing who we let in, and elites that do not constantly defy, fail or lie to voters on the issue.
Sunak’s plan is a good first step rebuilding trust but – given the lack of capacity in detention centers and Rwanda – it will only work if it calls the people-traffickers’ bluff. It must also overcome the purveyors of lawfare: this must surely require withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. Will the Tory party have the courage to make the final break with the failed orthodoxy of the past, pioneering a new generous but controlled approach to migration, or will it allow itself to be bullied into submission by Twitter Leftists?