The Home Office continues scaring the shit out of immigrants

"Go home or face arrest", says a new poster campaign.

The Home Office is to drive billboards warning migrants to "go home or face arrest" around London this week, in the latest attempt to instil fear in the hearts of immigrants. The news follows on from their oppressive Twitter campaign showing pictures of immigrants being bundled into the back of vans with captions like "no hiding place for illegal immigrants".

The Evening Standard's Martin Bentham reports:

The billboards will also display the number of illegal migrants arrested recently in the relevant part of the capital.

Ministers say that the hardline message is intended to encourage visa overstayers or others here unlawfully to return voluntarily.

The vans will be driven around the London boroughs of Ealing, Barnet, Hounslow, Brent, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham, in an effort to strike fear into the hearts of migrants. The six boroughs have been chosen, according to Bentham, because "they currently have either high or low numbers of voluntary returns".

The full billboard reads:

In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice, and help with travel documents. We can help you to return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention.

It's not difficult to draw comparisons with the latest anti-migrant campaign in Australia, where Cameron's chief political strategist Lynton Crosby cut his teeth. There, the ruling Labour party has started running posters in major newspapers with the slogan "If you come here by boat without a visa you won't be settled in Australia". Many have pointed out that the fact that the slogan is aimed at potential migrants but run in Australian newspapers means that the real aim of the campaign is Australian voters, who like hearing that their government is tough on immigration.

Is the same true here? At least the poster due to be driven around outer London has a chance of being seen by its supposed targets, and according to Bentham:

The new advert will also be displayed on posters and on leaflets distributed to money transfer shops, internet cafes and other places where migrants congregate.

Of course, if anyone who isn't an illegal immigrant should happen to see the poster and decide to vote Tory because of it, well, that would be too bad, wouldn't it?

Photograph: Gov.UK

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.