Boris Johnson’s Telegraph columns are often works of mischief, but today’s is a carefully constructed piece of politics. His subject is immigration – about which the political nation has been warring over the weekend. Boris is, famously, pro-immigration – as one would have to be to win elections in London, irrespective of whether one was a Conservative. And his attitude to illegal immigration is pragmatic: illegals need to be brought into the fold or deported.
Boris treads this line again today. First, he writes a paean to the runner Mo Farah – who personifies a ‘sermon as to what immigrants can achieve if they work hard’. Then he says that illegal immigrants cannot run for their country, for they live beyond society and outside the law. They ‘make a nonsense of the efforts of other immigrants to do the right thing and secure leave to remain.’ He says that one cannot blame the government for trying to enforce the law, and takes aim at lawyers who frustrate the government.
But Boris’ support for the means of enforcement, the immigration van, is less than enthusiastic. ‘This poster campaign is unlikely, in itself, to solve the problem that expanded so massively under the last Labour government,’ he says with marvellous understatement. He also takes a swipe at Nigel Farage’s place in this row: ‘words that have even offended the tender sensibilities of Nigel Farage’.
In the space of a few paragraphs, Boris pops the idiocy of the pro-illegal immigrant left while de-coupling himself from the worst excesses of the right. Boris has keen liberal instincts. He has talked of amnesties for illegal immigrants in the past. He doesn’t do so today, preferring to claim that 'we already have a de facto amnesty for all illegal immigrants who have been able to stay here for a long time.' He adds, should one be in any doubt about his views: ‘One way or another illegals need to regularise their position, and preferably to pay taxes like everyone else.’
Who says that irony – in the sense of holding more than one position at a time – never works in print?