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5 October

Suella Braverman dreams of a flight to Rwanda because it could never come true

The UN has suggested the government deportation plan is illegal – and it’s being challenged in the High Court.

By Jonn Elledge

Martin Luther King famously had a dream, that his four little children would one day be judged, not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. Few of us have dreams, in either the conscious or unconscious sense, which can claim to even approach that level. I suppose I could describe my irritational hope that the government commits to building both the Northern Powerhouse Railway and the eastern leg of HS2 as a dream; but the more honest statement would be “I have a dream, that one day I have to retake my A-levels, and nobody bothered to warn me.” (That one’s surprisingly common.)

Suella Braverman’s dream struggles to rise even to that level. “I would love to have a front page of the Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda,” she told a fringe meeting at this week’s Tory party conference. “That’s my dream, it’s my obsession.” As dreams go, it reminds me of that one in which I’d committed a horrible crime and was awaiting my punishment. Only instead of waking up, shaking with guilt in a pool of her own sweat, the Home Secretary is instead cheerily alluding to it in a public place where everyone can hear her.

The thing about dreams is that, despite what people say, they are actually pretty unlikely to come true. In Braverman’s case this is because the policy might actually be illegal – the UN Refugee Agency has said that the “arrangement, which amongst other concerns seeks to shift responsibility and lacks necessary safeguards, is incompatible with the letter and spirit of the 1951 Convention” on the rights of refugees – and is currently being challenged in the High Court.

And so, Braverman added, in the manner of one who knows it’s not going to happen but quite fancies a bust-up with some human rights lawyers all the same, “Unfortunately, we have got to let that play out.” A Telegraph splash for Christmas seems a little unlikely. Oh well. MLK’s dream has yet to come true either. 

Let us pause here for a moment to consider Braverman’s choice of language. Some people dream of being swept off their feet by the love of their life; some are obsessed with dogs or Harry Styles. The Home Secretary, though, “dreams” and has an “obsession” for deporting asylum seekers, the most vulnerable people who ever step foot in Britain, to a country with a patchy human rights record. It isn’t that this is a grim necessity, an unfortunate requirement of sensible grown-up government: further wrecking the life chances of a group of people whose lives, we can assume, were not going brilliantly anyway is something she wants us to know she would enjoy.

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And this is the week that Labour’s Rachel Reeves decided to deal with the first truly landslide Labour polling we’ve seen in a generation by calling out the government for not deporting enough people – a choice that would be horrible, and quite possibly self-defeating, even if it were electorally necessary, which right now it quite clearly isn’t.  

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[See also: Liz Truss wants to govern a country that does not exist]