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1 November 2022

Suella Braverman’s migrant “invasion” claim hides her lack of ideas

For all its rhetoric, the government has no real plan for managing cross-Channel immigration.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Rishi Sunak remains under pressure over his reappointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.

This morning she is facing accusations of using inflammatory language about migrants, after saying in the Commons she wanted to stop the “invasion of our southern coast”. This has worsened fears of a copycat attack after petrol bombs were thrown at a migrant centre in Dover.

LBC also reports that a senior Home Office source claims Braverman refused to approve hotel bookings for migrants to ease overcrowding at Manston short-stay migrant centre “because they were in Tory areas” and only approved the use of three new hotels in Labour constituencies. About 4,000 people are at Manston but it was designed to process only 1,000; there are reported to have been outbreaks of diphtheria and MRSA.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, tried to defend Braverman’s language by saying she was “conveying to the public the sheer scale of the challenge” before admitting that “invasion” is not a word he would use and “you do have to choose your language carefully”. He said that 40,000 migrants had tried to cross the Channel this year and denied, again, that Braverman had blocked the use of hotel rooms to house migrants at Manston.

That Jenrick chose to distance himself from Braverman’s language is significant and shows that Sunak may also have been troubled by it. But the Prime Minister has also said the government is going to look at more “radical options” to deal with Channel crossings.

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Sunak and his administration may use tough rhetoric but, with processing centres overflowing and the government spending £6.8m every day on hotels for migrants, it seems that ministers have no workable plan for managing the level of immigration to the UK. Sunak would have to reconcile any new legislation on migration with his pledge of more “compassionate” governance.

Meanwhile, Sunak and Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, have started to prepare the Budget which will be delivered on November 17. The Conservatives are looking to fill a £50bn hole in the public finances created when Liz Truss’s extreme tax-cutting agenda caused market chaos.

A report in the Times this morning suggests that public sector workers should prepare for below-inflation pay rises as the Treasury is looking at an increase of just 2 per cent. This could herald more strikes as, with inflation expected to stay as high as 10 per cent for the rest of the year, nurses, teachers, police officers and soldiers would be facing a large real-terms pay cut.

And a report in the Guardian says that Hunt is planning multiple tax rises for the years ahead, including income tax and National Insurance. “It’s going to be rough,” a Treasury source told the newspaper.

This follows Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, saying on Sunday that funding for projects like HS2 was being reviewed. It all suggests that if Sunak is enjoying a honeymoon period, that could be about to change dramatically.

[See also: Will Suella Braverman survive?]

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