Tory Triumph or Windy Weather?
Signs emblazoned with “STOP THE BOATS” seem to follow Rishi Sunak wherever he goes, but how much closer is the Prime Minister to truly honouring his pledge? To most, the message is clear: stop means stop. What it means to the Prime Minister, however, is much less apparent.
Recently in Dover, Sunak flaunted a 20% decrease in small boat crossings as a significant Tory victory. For the month of May, the Ministry of Defence reported 7,610 migrants that were detected crossing the channel, a drop from 9,607 migrants the month before. A clear improvement then: or is it?
The reality may come down to a change in weather. At the Dover press conference, questions were raised about the possible impact of the choppy and windy weather on the number of crossings. While the Prime Minister joked that he “can’t control the weather” and attempted to reassure voters that “our plan is starting to work”, confidence in the party remains low. Although this month’s numbers may seem better than last month’s, we are still on track for the second highest year of illegal channel crossings on record.
In the Mediterranean, meanwhile, illegal immigration is on the rise. As Sunak pointed out, crossings are up a third for the same period in the region: but could this be a taste of what is to follow for Britain? It may well be that the flood of migrants has simply not reached us yet. Following the usual route, migrants could pass through Spain to Italy or France, and from there on to Kent via the world’s most trafficked shipping lanes.
The Tories hopes of re-election rest chiefly on the Prime Minister fulfilling his pledge to end illegal channel crossings. So far, despite Sunak’s reassurances, there doesn’t seem to have been any kind of success, and casts doubt on his government’s ability to meet the other four pledges. Forecasts predict an increase in debt for the foreseeable future, NHS waiting times remain at an all-time high, and the economy is only just avoiding a slip into recession. Amid these failures, it is the fifth pledge that constitutes the biggest disappointment: to STOP THE BOATS. Immigration won Brexit and voters remain dissatisfied a crisis that seems to rapidly be spinning out of control. Parading a 20% drop in channel crossings as a victory, which may well be on account of a mere change of weather, is the Prime Minister’s latest mistake, and one which could quite realistically cost him the keys to the kingdom in the election to come.