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Home > Politics

The Long-Awaited Clampdown on the Vietnamese Boat People

2 March 2007

Politicians love a good photo-opportunity, but it’s getting out hand, frankly. Last week Tony Blair arranged a ‘gun summit’ in Manchester, which was basically a thinly-veiled photo opportunity. Meanwhile David Cameron popped up in Manchester too, on some spurious ‘fact finding mission’ that also happened to be a photo opportunity. On the same day, Ming Campbell discussed gun crime during, believe it or not, a photo opportunity. Good grief. These people would have Narcissus complaining it was his turn to look in the lake.

It makes us wonder how much time politicians actually spend on the substance of politics (governing, scrutinising the government or formulating policy) and how much they spend having their photo taken and being on telly. Worse still, it makes us wonder if a lot of what politicians get up to isn’t decided by the photo opportunity it presents.

Step forward David Cameron, again. His latest wheeze is creating 10,000 border police to guard the UK’s watery borders. Cameron launched the idea by appearing in a life jacket on a police motor launch ‘patrolling’ UK waters and wearing a serious expression. It’s pathetic really: Cameron didn’t need to take to the high seas to announce the policy and he *definitely* didn’t need to pretend he’s at the sharp end of law enforcement either. What next? Nicholas Soames behind enemy lines with the SAS?

The actual border police policy is nothing to write home to Eastern Europe about. It’s really little more than a chance for Cameron to get on the news while ‘addressing’ the issue of immigration. Extra police would obviously make *some* difference, but the UK isn’t exactly being flooded with Vietnamese boat people. Nor is the UK anything like the US, where troopers on the ground constantly round up Mexicans crossing the border. Illegal immigrants to the UK mostly arrive here via existing ports (already patrolled by customs) or come here on visas that expire, sometimes arranged by English language course scams. *Some* smugglers of people, guns and drugs no doubt use small boats and private aircraft, but you’d probably get a small return on 10,000 border police, who’d be better employed anywhere in the UK where police resources are stretched.

But this is the cunning bit. Cameron plans to scrap ID cards and use the cash to pay for his border police, so we get them for free (sort of). The logic is unassailable. ID cards are unpopular and won’t work. Therefore Cameron will replace them with an idea that merely won’t work. Genius. The only question now is what photo opportunity will prove so irresistible that politicians have to invent a policy to go with it. Tax rebates for fluffy kittens? Aw! Go for it, Dave.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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