Politically Expendable Deaths

Hundreds of migrants rescued by RNLI lifeguards after crossing Channel: image SWNS

JVL Introduction

A heartfelt cry of woe at the lack of basic humanity shown by Downing Street as 31 people drown in the Channel…

As the author Phil Burton-Cartledge points out, “If Johnson and the rest of his gang truly cared about “evil” people smugglers and human traffickers, his government would set up multiple safe routes into the UK, so thousands aren’t left at the mercy of criminals, nor have to risk their lives in trying to reach these shores.”

When will we see Labour energentially challenging the premises of Tory asylum policy?

This article was originally published by All that is solid... on Wed 24 Nov 2021. Read the original here.

Politically Expendable Deaths

There is a hierarchy of racism in this country, and this is underlined by the death of 31 people in the Channel on Wednesday. Rather than a scintilla of sympathy, we see rightwingers taking to social media to do what they do best: blame the victims. They would not have died, they intone, if they had simply applied for asylum in France. The completely unsubtle implication that the dead have no one to blame but themselves. Boris Johnson went a step further, blaming the French for what happened, with his faithful henchwoman Priti Patel deploring the tragedy that took place in French waters.

There is blame to be apportioned, and it gathers about the steps of Downing Street. Their 11 years in office has seen the Tories grubbing in the linguistic sewer to portray anyone seeking sanctuary in this country as part-scrounger, part-terrorist. Unless they hail from Hong Kong and are politically convenient, of course. Having framed asylum seekers as unpeople, the Tories are effectively in a race to out do the extremism of the right wing press. Patel, herself a daughter of refugees, insults her own parents’ suffering by promising to do her best in doing the worst. Her Nationality and Immigration Bill sets up fortress Britain, and will punish anyone deemed to help somebody seek asylum, refuse to provide safe routes into the UK, holds out the fantasy of setting up refugee camps offshore for asylum processing, and promises the multiplication of bureaucracy as successful asylum applications are checked and rechecked – a measure designed to make the system costly, inefficient, and miserable for those on the receiving end of it.

Patel and Johnson are grotesques for redoubling their cruel efforts. But they’re aided by oppositions who never contest the substance of demonising refugees, and they dig a pit previously excavated by decades of governments playing politics with the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable. This is a responsibility shared by past Prime Ministers, Leaders of Oppositions, politicians who’ve lied about immigration and asylum seekers for a few minutes on television, and every single editorial office and hack who’ve belched the toxins of racism into politics like the four chugging towers of Battersea Power Station during its prime. It’s an ugly politics. It’s an utterly cowardly politics.

If Johnson and the rest of his gang truly cared about “evil” people smugglers and human traffickers, his government would set up multiple safe routes into the UK, so thousands aren’t left at the mercy of criminals, nor have to risk their lives in trying to reach these shores. The gangsters exist, the smuggling across borders exist because Johnson and the Tories are supporting the conditions in which this blackest of markets can thrive. There’s the small matter of many fleeing to the UK because of the consequences of what the UK is doing overseas, either directly as was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan and what is happening now in Yemen at the hands of its Saudi allies. Or indirectly by curbing aid, or people living in societies scarred by the broken legacies colonialism left in its wake. As last year’s Black Lives Matter/decolonial protests remind us, a proper reckoning with the British empire cannot be entertained.

What truly saddens about those 31 unnecessary deaths is that they won’t make a blind bit of difference. The opposition won’t contest the premise of Tory asylum policy. No mass circulation title or broadcast media commentator will make the obvious points and defend the right for people to come here. Instead, it’s an opportunity for whetting authoritarian appetites and bedding down the hostile environment. An avoidable human tragedy repurposed for more dehumanisation and, inevitably, more deaths.

Comments (3)

  • Harrystofanes says:

    This, from the Guardian, tells you all you need to know:
    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said authorities are “not doing enough” to diminish the “power” of people traffickers aiding migrants to embark on sea crossings to the UK.
    Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to concentrate on the causes of mass migration, rather than trying to stop people getting to the UK.

  • George Peel says:

    I don’t, normally, listen to LBC. In fact, I have them ‘blocked’ on Twitter, but a couple of evenings ago, ‘Rachel of Swindon’ posted an interview with Jeremy Corbyn by Iain Dale.

    JC was his usual, thoughtful self. Iain Dale surprised me with the civility he treated Jeremy. The subject was the migrant deaths, in The Channel.


    This is a man with ideas and should be listened to. He spoke calmly and knowledgeably – without hyperbole.

    Why should it be, only Iain Dale who was prepared to listen to him? Why have the BBC, ITN, Channel 4 News 5News or Sky News, not been in contact with Jeremy Corbyn to listen to his views?

    Are all of these news organisation so mired in their ‘anyone but Corbyn’ tunnel vision, they’ll listen to any old nonsense about migrant deaths – ‘…make the UK less attractive…’ – rather than talk to the man who has thought this crisis through and has the pragmatic ideas to resolve it?

    If they’re not willing to listen to him, then all their hand-wringing reportage is, simply, hypocrisy, on their part.

    If they have the will to resolve this crisis and end the deaths in The Channel – listen to Jeremy Corbyn.

    If they don’t have that will – and continue ignoring Jeremy Corbyn – they, simply, confirm their hypocrisy and should prepare themselves for the well-deserved opprobrium that follows.

  • steve mitchell says:

    Corbyn is 10 times the human being that Johnson is. He is one of very few politicians who are honest and trustworthy. Miriam Margolyes describes him as a man of principle. It is remarkable how many times he has been proved right. He was subjected to the most disgraceful ,carefully constructed and brutally executed character and political assassination. Everyone who believes in democracy should be concerned about what happened to Corbyn. Starmer in a recent interview says Jeremy knows what he has to do to get the Whip restored. This means he must admit to something he is not guilty of. I don’t think Corbyn will ever do that. If he stands as an independent candidate at the next election he will almost certainly retain his seat. I hope Starmer sees sense and readmits Jeremy. I am not holding my breathe.

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