Does Priti really expect her Rwandan wheeze to succeed? Or does she even want it to? Her Home Office officials are apparently against it, which is why she’s having to use a ‘ministerial directive’ to push it through without their support. Scores of lawyers are warning that it will probably come a cropper in the courts; and the moral outrage it’s provoking from all quarters – the Left, humanitarian pressure groups, even the older-fashioned kind of Tory politician: the ones whom Boris has side-lined so successfully in Parliament because they’re not Brexiters – is likely to give it a difficult run in the months ahead.
Which is leading me to wonder whether all this hasn’t been factored into the scheme from the beginning. We know that at the start of the ‘Partygate’ scandal Johnson and his advisers devised a strategy to convince his political base to stick with him, called ‘Operation Red Meat’. (I imagine his Australian Svengali, Lynton Crosby, had a hand in this.) The idea was to float a number of outrageous right-wing policies that would appeal to them, and keep them on-side in spite of everything that was going on. The Johnson government’s interventions in the ‘culture wars’ on the ‘anti-woke’ side are part of this, together with Priti Patel’s assault on the right to demonstrate noisily, instructions to the RNLI not to rescue ‘boat people’ from drowning, and the attacks by both her and Boris on ‘Lefty lawyers’ and the historic procedures of the Houses of Parliament. Deporting refugees to the middle of Africa fits in with this in a score of ways, appealing to the red-meat eaters’ nationalism, racism, and fondness for ‘firm government’.
So, even if the Rwanda policy fails, and Britain can’t send her poor asylum seekers there, it will still have succeeded in its political purpose; and indeed will have succeeded even more if it does fail, because then Boris and Priti will be able to put the blame for its failure on their favourite populist scapegoats: judges, left-wing politicians, and the ‘metropolitan elite’. That will further stoke the fires of what I like to call ‘proto-fascism’ – the ideological soil from which historical Fascisms have sprung – in order to make the country compliant with their underlying demands. Either way, for the Tory red-meat eaters it’s ‘win-win’.