Home secretary James Cleverly is determined to “stop the boats” (Picture: Simon Walker)

The Tories are certain that the 1963 British Museum Act cannot in any circumstances be changed. So the Parthenon marbles cannot be sent back to where they came from. 

The same Tories are certain the law can be changed so real people can be sent back to where they didn’t come from—Rwanda.

The law in question, if it ever exists, will say that Rwanda is a safe country, so making it so, and that human rights are a nasty foreign thing that don’t apply.

Home secretary James Cleverly gives the impression of an aggressive rabbit caught in headlights shouting to the oncoming truck to have a go if it thinks it’s hard enough.

Cleverly cleverly used a Goldilocks analogy to warn that a hardline option was “too hot”. But that he did not want something “too cold” that leaves the racist policy open to another court challenge.

To this “tepid porridge” some Tories will rebel if there is a strong attack on human rights and others will rebel if there isn’t one. Helpfully the immigration minister Robert Jenrick has a plan that he has had for a year but forgot to tell anyone about. 

Mostly it involves letting people know he is a bit more racist than Cleverly since you asked and it’s definitely not his fault that there are migrants.  Jenrick is not known for independence of thought or indeed thought. 

The closest he previously came to a plan was when he was housing minister and granted planning permission to Tory donor and pornographer Richard Desmond who bought him dinner. 

Sir John Hayes has demanded Rishi Sunak enact the mystical plan “exactly” as Jenrick wanted, while blustering, “That 1.3 million migrants over a period of two years is a catastrophe for Britain is obvious to everyone apart from guilt-ridden bourgeois liberals.”

Hayes is chair of the Tories’ Commonsense Group. What passes for Tory thought often claims legitimacy from a magical and inaccurate belief they know the popular will.

As the government slithers along to the general election, those MPs that aren’t retiring to spend more time with their money are demanding bribes and more racism. 

They believe that may let them keep their jobs. Fault lines that used to be about Europe are more now about revenge and self-destruction. One group thinks the worst thing ever was that they ditched Boris Johnson. 

Then there are deluded allies of Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, trapped in the belief that her short tenure wasn’t the car crash it appeared to be to everybody else.

Sunak wasn’t voted for by the Tory party members who he needs to do the ground work of fighting an election. He is looking to at least rhetorically get something he can sell to his own party and base. 

There is now the potential for various dubious bills to be fought over in parliament. Sunak may break his weak government in the process.

He has appeared with banners saying “stop the boats” too often to go anywhere other than hate. It is an albatross of a slogan, hanging on the neck of a zombie government. 

But it doesn’t make it less poisonous. One risk is, while still small and splintered with their natural leader in reality television, racists start to feel great again.

A bigger problem is not on the right but what passes for the left.  Labour has decided to join in the reactionary shouting with gusto. 

So Keir Starmer won a debate with Sunak in parliament last week. What he won over should be a warning.  Every one of his interventions was to mention immigration.

Labour is for managing deportations better. The problem for Labour isn’t that “stop the boats” means drowning people, it is that it isn’t working. 

The Tories just aren’t being tough enough on foreigners or tough enough on the causes of foreigners.

The Tories will get nastier as the election approaches but what anti-racists need to note is that the Labour Party looks set to follow them deep into the sewer.

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