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Immigration and small boats - a rich vein of examples

Mike McCartney

15th March 2023

The multi-faceted nature of Politics and ability to make linkages between topic areas in the subject is no better illustrated than with the government's Illegal Migration Bill, which is wrapped around the issue of so called 'small boats', which is in itself cased inside the wider debate of immigration.

  1. First off, we can see the controversial legislation throughthe prism of backbench revolts. In Parliament many backbenchers have made it clear they would not support their PM's plans by voting against. As reported in the Standard, the bill did pass its second reading last night, despite Tory opposition. See here. NB no Conservative backbencher actually voted against, though there some abstentions. Make of that what you will!
  2. This links to the idea of the functions of Parliament and questions about how effectively scrutiny is carried out. Concerns have already been raised by the likes of the Institute for government about the role of Parliament in this regard. This is great source to quote in essays. Read the web entry here.
  3. Obviously there is the whole nexus of party policy and ideology here, in terms of links to Thatcherism and New Right ideology and whether the current policy fits with traditional principles.
  4. The fourth obvious topic area is rights. The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has written to MPs, stating that she expects that it may be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and be extension, therefore it would bring the UK government into conflict with judges in Strasbourg. So to what extent does the Human Rights Act, therefore, protect rights?
  5. Then this brings us to voting behaviour. I know speculation is not advised about future ballots in essays on how and why parties win elections, but it useful to discuss the issues of the day when looking back to explain the outcome of a past election. Here, we know that the Prime Minister's personal ratings have flatlined since he assumed office, and clearly this raises questions of a psephological nature about the extent to which a respective party leader can improve or harm the chances of a their respective parties emerging victorious from an election. Then there is the idea of issue voting. Immigration rose much further up the political agenda in recent elections, and many have argued that the current Conservative stance is a purely populist measure deigned to shore up votes that went Conservative at the last election beyond their traditional base, the so called 'Red Wall'. A nice video form Channel 4 on this...

6. The final, and less obvious area, where we can use the small boats/asylum/immigration topic from recent news events does dovetail to an extent with the previous point, and relates to the power of the PM. Professor Michael Foley over twenty years ago developed his thesis of the British presidency. This was predicated on the idea that UK leaders co-opted the tactics used by US presidents to overcome the constitutional limits on their powers, and it was only in this context could we understand the successes and failures of British Prime Ministers. Techniques included portraying themselves as outsiders, exploiting media in its myriad guises, and so on.

And then there is the quasi-Head of State thesis, where PMs will seek to make the most of opportunities to be photographed in the presence of other world leaders at international summits.

Clearly the co-ordinated announcement between Rishi Sunak and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, is a great example in this respect. Watch the BBC on what some have dubbed a London-Paris 'bromance'...

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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