Simon Clarke, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, tweeted ‘Small boats are THE issue in my surgeries and on the doors. We have to do whatever it takes to end what most northern voters at least think is an insult to our ability to police our borders, and a huge cost in terms of the resultant hotel bills.’
He is wrong. I do not believe that anyone in his surgery has spoken about small boats. Middlebrough is at least 250 miles away from the South Coast of England where the small boats land. In the Channel coastal constituencies I am sure it is brought up many times but the only small boats that the people of Cleveland will be worried about are those that have been trying to make a living from fishing. That is another story.
Small boats is a Tory euphemism for immigrants. Apparently it is one of the Conservative voters’ biggest concerns, so much so that Sunak made it number 5 of his five promises, saying ‘we will pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.’
I do accept that his constituents will have spoken to him about immigration. Being concerned about large influxes of people into your neighbourhood is genuine, especially if it happens very quickly. Being wary of people who don’t look like you or behave in different ways is only natural. But the Conservatives see this as a key election opportunity and are stoking up fears of an invasion. It is THE issue for the Tory party, it is the one thing that they think can keep them in power.
The ‘deeply shocking’ violence seen during a far-right protest outside the Suites Hotel in Prescot, Knowsley, is a direct consequence of such rhetoric.
Using the phrase small boats is disingenuous and divisive. Nobody cares about the boats, everyone cares about the people in one way or another. It is a phrase that gives the Conservatives a veneer of concern and responsibility while masking their true intentions.
Clarke says that the current situation is ‘an insult to our ability to police our borders, and a huge cost in terms of the resultant hotel bills.’ After thirteen years in government they have no one else to blame but themselves for the management of the situation. It is policy that is needed, not inflammatory propaganda.