The Home Office's van. Photo: Gov.UK
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Home Office live-tweets immigration raids

The message is clear: we're coming for you.

The Home Office twitter feed stepped up its ongoing campaign to scare the shit out of migrants yesterday, live tweeting co-ordinated raids across the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tweets are the public face of what seems to be a deliberate stepping-up of anti-immigrant activities. The department has also launched an aggressive mobile ad campaign aimed at people in the UK illegally, quickly nicknamed the "racist van" due to the similarity of its slogan to those used by the National Front; and anecdotal evidence suggests that spot-checks on public transport, particularly around the capital, have become more frequent and forceful.

Late last month, the UK Border Agency was out in force in Kensal Green, in the London Borough of Brent. The borough has the largest foreign-born population in Britain – 54.2 per cent of residents weren't born in the UK, as of the last census — and so any aggressive swoop is likely to feel hostile to its residents. That is twice as true if, as seems likely, there is an element of racial profiling to the checks. Matt Kelcher wrote of his experience, saying that the UKBA agents "didn’t seem interested in me and I walked straight through, but the two Asian women who entered the station after me were stopped, taken to one side and questioned."

In a way, the Home Office twitter campaign is just honesty. Actions speak louder than words, and the department's actions make it pretty clear that it is prepared to go to lengths many people find abhorrent to crack down on illegal immigrants. Maybe it's better that they are at least open about it. But what rankles most, judging by the replies to the account, is the pride. Even if we were prepared to accept that this sort of grotty work is necessary given the laws of our country, it's another thing entirely to see the Government revelling in it, and shouting it out for all the world to see.

The Home Office argues that the various publicity campaigns are aimed squarely at illegal migrants, encouraging them to leave the country; but, as Rafael Behr wrote of the vans, "at least part of the intended audience for this campaign is people who are British, who think there are too many immigrants here and want some of them to leave". The migrants who might actually see the tweets and fear for their safety look more like collateral damage.

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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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.