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Good morning. Humza Yousaf introduced John Swinney, the deputy prime minister, as his big endorsement on the eve of a poll in the SNP leadership race.
The complete lack of much quantitative data on what SNP members think is starting to worry me, and my hunches about the competition keep changing. On the one hand, yes, the membership is more liberal than all of Scotland, which probably doesn’t bode well for Kate Forbes. Not the fact that every poll shows that SNP voters are leaning towards Yousaf.
This is also what my own conversations with SNP members suggest, but I may be talking to an unrepresentative group for various reasons: that’s the difficulty with the lack of quantitative data!
But for Swinney, any endorsement is a big move that many interpret, reasonably in my opinion, as a sign that the SNP establishment is worried that Yousaf is out of the bag. On the other hand, Swinney’s endorsement will be seen by many as a pretty good targeting of what Nicola Sturgeon herself thinks, which is quite a big coup for any campaign.
So, honestly, your guess is as good as mine at this point. Contact us and tell us what you think!
Today’s note is about small boats.
Inside Politics is edited by Gordon Smith today. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send your gossip, thoughts and feedback to email@example.com
Local and national small boat problems
Conservatives have two problems with small boats, not one. The first is nationwide: it is caused by media and political pressure on people traveling to the UK on small ships. It eases when the story is out of the news or, as now, when the Conservative Party has just announced a series of tough new measures to tackle the problem.
While only a minority of voters see this issue as one that will determine their vote in the next election, and it is less damaging to Tory hopes by either switching to smaller parties rather than Labor and the Liberal Democrats or abstaining from voting, still an obstacle to the Conservative Party’s prospects. One Conservative MP compares trying to win the next election while the story is still in the news to trying to run a marathon with an ear infection: sure, you can do it, but it’s really hard and you’re unlikely to win anything in the end.
The second is local: the visible presence of abandoned rubber dinghies and other physical evidence of a boat crossing across the English Channel that is essentially confined to a few coastal constituencies.
In the past, governments have been politically successful in taking action to solve a national problem, even when they have made a local problem worse. The New Labor era ban on asylum seekers is a good example of this: the policy is a human disaster for the refugees involved and damages the economic well-being of places where asylum seekers live while waiting for their claims to be processed. (The problem is particularly acute, politically and socially, in Kent.) But it sounds tough and has helped ease the last Labor government’s electoral difficulties linked to migration.
Rishi Sunak’s new illegal migration law has eased some of the nationwide problem as the Conservatives are now on par with Labor on who is most trusted on immigration.
The problem, however, is that the electoral benefits of this policy are short-lived: if measures in the government’s Irregular Migration Bill don’t work, people in Kent will still be angry, Conservative MPs in Kent will still be upset by this anger, broadcasters will continue to report on this matter, and the Tory party’s national problem will return.
That’s the story of Conservatives and small boats, as this new Institute for Government report explains. Here is the key graph:
One of the reasons Labor politicians feel last week has been a good one for them is that they believe the future will be very much like the recent past: where gloomy promises to “take care of” the problem give way to apparent failure. And they have good reason to believe so, as the IfG explains. As Tony Barber explains in an excellent column, the problems of British small boats are only part of Europe’s wider problems. The fact that no one in Europe has come close to “taking up” this problem is one reason to believe that the Conservatives will not be the first.
But but but (to coin this phrase): I think it is worth looking at not only what is in the act, but also what else the British government is doing. The small boat issue has three main causes:
1) People want to come to the UK and most refugees have no legal route to come here.
2) The UK is relatively close to continental Europe and France in particular.
3) The UK has a thriving criminal economy.
It’s true that the Australian government has “stopped the boats”, but that’s the way it is Also It is true that the Australian government has a legal route for refugees to enter the country, and in the year before the pandemic, 13,171 people were granted refugee status. And, of course, it’s also true that Australia isn’t really anywhere near.
Basically, any service someone wants will be provided legally or illegally. And the healthier your criminal economy is, the more likely the service will be on scale: the UK’s small boat problem Also his drug trafficking problem, his internet fraud problem, and any other area of successful criminal activity you want to name. Human trafficking is not, by and large, a modest family operation: it is part of a broader portfolio of criminal activities.
So one of the reasons why the future may not be what it was in the past is because the extra money the UK spends in France to help French law enforcement and the increased spending on police and crime here in the UK put together they can do something to make the business model unprofitable for most traders. If the new “detention center” the UK is helping to build in France also offers a legal route to asylum, that too could actually change the problem.
I didn’t write about Gary Lineker and the BBC today because I did it in my column instead.
Now try this
Things I enjoyed this weekend: the FT Weekend Life & Arts Africa special featuring this brilliant essay and a great FT lunch by David Pilling.
Things I didn’t like this weekend: 65, in which a pilot (played by Adam Driver) crashes on a mysterious planet that turns out to be Earth 65 million years ago, and who, together with the sole survivor of the crash, must make it to the rescue shuttle to return home. I was prepared for the movie to be lame, cheesy or over the top. I wasn’t prepared for it to be incredibly memorable and quite boring. A few decent scary jumps are spread too thin over the 90-minute running time. (Seemed longer.) My advice: Watch the paint dry instead.
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