The New Elite Is Out Of Touch ... Again
What the latest divide tells us about Britain's looming election
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One of the main themes of this newsletter is the enormous gulf that now separates members of the ruling new elite from the wider public. And in recent days we’ve been given yet another example of this huge and growing divide —and one which I think tells us a lot about how the general election is likely to play out next year.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about the decision by Rishi Sunak’s government to temporarily house Britain’s rising number of asylum-seekers and illegal migrants on barges, like the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset which is attracting considerable attention.
The story is dominating the news, not least since Lee Anderson, the working-class deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said the immigrants who do not like their new accommodation could “f*** off back to France”.
The initial decision to house migrants on barges followed a growing sense of alarm in government and among the public about just how much it is costing the British taxpayer to house the spiralling number of migrants in hotels (about £6 million a day) and cover the costs of the broader asylum crisis (about £3.6 billion a year).
The barges, in short, are designed to reinforce the government’s narrative that it is taking the British people’s concerns seriously, it is actively deterring other migrants from crossing the Channel, and is getting things done —however unpopular they might be among the liberal progressive new elite who dominate the institutions.
And it is definitely unpopular among the new elite. Much like the Rwanda Plan before it, the last few weeks have been filled with members of our new ruling class voicing if not shrieking their opposition to the plan, a reaction fuelled by the unfortunate revelation this week that one barge has a Legionella bacteria outbreak.
The plan to use barges, writes the New York Times, is “a divisive symbol of the Conservative government’s immigration stance”. It is “morally indefensible”, said former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Amnesty International denounced it as “a shameful way to receive people who’ve fled conflict and persecution”, while Will Hutton said the government “don’t speak for me - or the majority of British (sic). This is a right wing silo talking to a right wing silo”.
But is it? Is it really? Not if you look at what ordinary British people out there are thinking and feeling about the issue. Check out these numbers and why I think they matter for Rishi Sunak and his evolving plan for fighting the election next year.