I’m getting sick of the Tories

I suppose this happens to all of us at different speeds, but I am getting a little fed up of this government. In particular, I am getting fed up of the gap between its rhetoric and its actions. Most of the time this is most noticeable with the Prime Minister, who gives his base the occasional morsel of right-wingery only to then force-feed them great dollops of lefty-greenery. On a trip to Washington, Priti Patel has demonstrated that she is also no stranger to this tactic. So far we have had Patel (the DC version) talk about ‘the mass migration crisis’, as though she is merely an observer of the crisis

Is Boris brave enough to solve the Channel migrant crisis?

The sheer number of useless interventions that have been touted as offering a solution to the cross-Channel migrants crisis is bewildering. Various rounds of talks with France about heightened cooperation to make the route non-viable; paying large sums of money to France to fund beach patrols; appointing a cross-Channel Clandestine Threat Commander; threatening to ‘call in’ the Royal Navy; threatening to turn back overladen boats in the world’s busiest shipping lane; pressuring social media platforms to prevent successful landers from sharing videos of themselves looking happy and triumphant that supposedly create a pull factor for others; even a direct prime ministerial interview to camera promising ‘we will send you back’.

Putin’s plan for Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s message was as clear — and familiar — as his method. The Kremlin has begun another major build-up of troops along Ukraine’s border. The reason? Retaliation: last month, president Volodimir Zelenskiy flew to Washington to renew his plea that Ukraine be allowed to join Nato.  The massive show of force — the second this year — prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to warn his European allies that Russia showed dangerous signs of invading its smaller southern neighbour. ‘Our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014 when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and

France is using migrants just like Belarus

It was hard not to laugh, coldly, at the statement from western members of the UN Security Council that condemned Belarus for engineering the migrant crisis on its border with Poland. Following Thursday’s emergency UN Security Council meeting, western members published a joint statement, accusing Belarus of putting migrants’ lives in danger ‘for political purposes’. That’s true, of course, but to hear such words from France. Quelle hypocrisie! There are far fewer migrants camping out in cardboard cities in Paris this year. Why? Because these camps have been broken up and the migrants – overwhelmingly young men from Africa and the Middle East – have headed north to Calais. Once

Why did neo-Nazis patrol the German border?

Just after midnight last Sunday, around 50 vigilantes gathered in east Germany to ‘patrol’ the country’s border with Poland. They were there to stop illegal immigrants, armed as they did so with batons, a machete, a bayonet and pepper spray. They were discovered by local police forces, but a certain nervousness from the authorities was palpable as they pleaded with residents in the eastern border regions to not take the law into their own hands. While the array of confiscated weapons suggests a well thought out plan, these ‘patrols’ are by no means coherent. The largest single group was reportedly stopped by the police in the border village of Groß Gastrose

The powerlessness of Priti Patel

It is hard not to feel sorry for Priti Patel. She would surely have been a Tory conference darling at the gathering that never happened back in autumn 2020 at the height of the pandemic. Back then she always came towards the top of cabinet ministers’ popularity in the monthly survey conducted by the Conservative Home website. But this year the Home Secretary’s ratings have dropped like a stone. She currently sits in 29th place, staring up in envy at such magnetic figures as Alok Sharma and Alister Jack and without even the comfort of knowing that there is always Gavin Williamson to look down on. In the mini-hall being used

Why The Spectator is wrong to call for amnesty for illegal migrants

The Spectator is a magazine for conservatives written by liberals. From that tension comes an editorial persuasion — there is no line — that can seem winsome, beguiling, even perverse. Optimistic but never idealist, sceptical of the big but not the new, The Spectator combines a radical’s grasp of the possible with a reactionary’s sense of the inevitable. It is instinctually Whiggish but plagued by spasms of Toryism, looking forward through the rear-view mirror of life. If National Review is in the business of standing athwart history yelling ‘stop’, the The Spectator has more often been found sprinting ahead of history yelling ‘hurry up’. In the 1860s, it came close to

The EU’s migration delusion

Just as Theresa May’s Chequers plan for Brexit was being savaged in Salzburg, EU leaders also found time to engage in their usual response when it comes to the question of migration: a lot of talk, glad-handing, and pats on the back, but very little concrete action. The summit was a two-day affair that encapsulates all of the negative connotations of the EU as an institution: slow, cumbersome, ineffective, and increasingly detached from reality. Hours were devoted to the migration issue, that perennial crisis that has hovered over Brussels over the last five years. Based on the public statements before, during, and after the informal summit, you would be excused for

Boris and Priti can’t blame France for the Channel migrant crisis

The sun is beating down again, the waves are less choppy in the English Channel and the small boats full of irregular migrants are pouring across once more. At least 1,000 men, women and children were reportedly spotted landing on the south coast yesterday. If these numbers are correct, it would have shattered the previous daily record of 828, recorded on 21 August. But Home Office sources were today briefing that was an over-estimate and the likely official number will be about 740, merely the second highest daily total ever. The graphs plotting the staggering acceleration of this traffic make grim reading indeed – this is one curve that has never

Talk tough and do nothing: The abject failure of Patel’s migrant strategy

It is somehow fitting that during an Olympic Games a department of Her Majesty’s government is busy smashing records. In the very week that a man ran the 400 metre hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics in a previously unthinkable time of sub-46 seconds, the Home Office presided over the arrival of 482 irregular migrants on the south coast of England in a single day. That easily broke a previous record of 430, set on 19 July or ‘freedom day’. Startled observers of the cross-Channel chaos are now pondering whether the 500 barrier could even be exceeded one day this summer. That the Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm’s record represented astounding success, while

Lukashenko’s migrant warfare against the EU

When you have already forced a plane down with spurious claims of a bomb threat, just to arrest one dissident journalist, where do you go from there? For the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a man looking to punish the European Union after it imposed sanctions on Belarus, it seems that exploiting would-be migrants and asylum seekers is the way forward. Last week, the dictator threatened to send masses of migrants to the EU, in retaliation for the bloc’s sanctions against Belarus. ‘We will not stop anyone’, Lukashenko said, saying migrants would be on their way to a ‘warm and comfortable Europe’ soon. His goal in particular appeared to be to

A hymn to the hummingbird — one of the most astonishing organisms on Earth

Along with coral reefs and their fish, tropical butterflies and birds of paradise, hummingbirds must be among the most beautiful organisms on Earth. Yet for anyone who has never seen one in the flesh, it is difficult to convey the psychological effects of a first encounter. For beauty is only half the hummingbird story. Their impact is doubled somehow by the minuscule size of the creatures. How could anything so small, you wonder, embody so much life force? Even in ordinary flight the wings beat at 80 times a second, and in certain display modes this can rise to 200. The old name — ‘humbird’ — better expresses the electric

Scotland needs English migrants

Post-pandemic economic recovery was on the agenda at Holyrood this week, with Scotland’s finance minister Kate Forbes in full JFK-style ‘ask not what your country can do for you’ visionary mode. ‘Wherever someone works, and in whatever capacity, if they think that they can serve our country as we face the prospect of rebuilding, this is their personal invitation. Our strength is in our united vision to work together — across party lines, sectors and regions — to rebuild,’ declaimed Forbes. A cynic might wonder if ‘serve our country’ will turn out to mean serving the nationalist interest rather than the national one. It would be no surprise if trade

Migrant smuggling is one of Lebanon’s last businesses

Ibrahim Lachine sold his mother’s furniture to pay for a place on a smuggler’s boat from Lebanon to Cyprus and left without saying goodbye. Stealing was, he admits, a bad thing to do, but the boat mafia wanted $700 (£500) and he couldn’t see any other way to get the money. He was 22 and hadn’t worked for three years. Food came from charities. Rent hadn’t been paid in months. Ibrahim leans back on a plastic chair, tall and angular in a black tracksuit and black running shoes. ‘We were very sad and very poor.’ Then he grins, a little embarrassed but mostly pleased with himself. He says he waited

The way Greece has conducted itself in this pandemic is an example to us all

Aristophanes was a comic genius long before the Marx Brothers, but he also gave good advice to the Athenians: stop the war! In his play Lysistrata he had the women going on strike — no more nookie — until the men stopped fighting. During the plague that killed the greatest Athenian of them all, Pericles, Aristophanes advised the young to isolate, meditate and masturbate, advice still valid to this day. Greece, with roughly the same population as Switzerland and faced with a surge of migrants turned loose by the dreaded Turks, has handled the crisis well. The American media is using the virus crisis in order to attack Trump, but

The joys of scavenging the Thames

‘It’s very hard for you to really live in the day,’ says Ruth, ‘because you don’t know by evening you may have a letter from an agency saying you’ve got to go tomorrow.’ She arrived in the UK in 1937, aged 15, sent here by her Jewish family to escape the Nazis. Now 98, she was talking to Nikki Tapper, a presenter for BBC West Midlands, at a community centre in Birmingham, which since 2015 has committed itself to be a city of sanctuary. In The Syrians and the Kindertransport on Radio 4 (produced by George Luke), Tapper brings together two generations of refugees, divided by 70 years, who have

Split decisions

Europe. Big word. Big theme. It was used by David Greig as the title of his 1994 play about frontiers in the age of mass migration. The setting is a railway station in eastern Europe and it opens like a kids’ TV show with each character entering and doing something ‘typical’. Everyone is either good or bad. The stationmaster is a bullying xenophobe. His deputy, Adele, is a meek, well-meaning housewife unhappily married to a dim, angry factory worker whose unemployed mates are as stupid as he is, apart from one who wants to go travelling and another who makes stacks of evil cash out of smuggling. Two migrants arrive,

Matteo Salvini is doing Brussels a favour with his harsh migration policy

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, is one of the most controversial politicians in Europe. The 45-year old chief of the League party exudes a down-to-earth demeanour with his common-man social media posts, in which he shares pictures of himself eating Barilla pasta and Nutella. To his many opponents, Salvini is a thick-headed, semi-fascist ideologue who wants to turn back the clock and return Europe to a dangerous form of nationalism. But to his supporters, in and out of Italy, he is a straight-talking, no-nonsense defender of his country’s sovereignty against the northern elites in Berlin and Brussels. However Salvini is seen, one thing is beyond dispute: migration levels

The new boat people

When the migrant crisis started, about three years ago, it was seen as a mainly Syrian affair. Caught in the crossfire between Bashar al-Assad and sundry jihadist groups, ordinary Syrians were heading for Europe, part of the largest mass movement of people since the second world war. But as we now know, that analysis was wrong. Or rather, it was only one facet of the historical migration phenomenon that was unfolding then and still is today. As a reporter, I hit the migrant trail, following the new arrivals by foot, bus, train and ferry through the Greek islands and the Balkans. I heard many languages besides Arabic, among them Pashto,

Lionel Shriver

What have migrants got against France?

Pitching your tent for weeks on end in the cold and mud, with no power or plumbing. Running in a pack after accelerating lorries and clutching frantically at the back door handles. Risking not only your own life but even the lives of your children by crowding into unseaworthy dinghies, in which to drift precariously across the busiest shipping lane in the world… All this full-tilt determination to flee intolerable circumstances and get into the comparative Valhalla of the UK makes perfect sense — if the place you’re so desperate to leave behind is war-torn Syria or famine-ravaged Yemen. But the country on whose coast these yearning, immiserated would-be UK