Arguments in his defence are clear to me — it’s his Twitter account, he does not report on politics for the Beeb, and he is also a freelancer, not staff. He has stretched BBC guidance but I’m sure the public can, like me, exercise a brain cell or two and work out that his opinions are not those of the BBC. As it stands, it looks like the BBC agrees with me.
Secondly, what of his reference to the language of the Government around illegal asylum seekers being like that of 1930s Germany? It is unwise to refer to Nazi Germany and the horrors there lightly, but the atrocious crimes of Nazi Germany did not start in concentration camps. The roots of their crimes lay in the dehumanisation of vulnerable or minority groups and blaming them cruelly for societal problems. We are in no way near the extreme economic conditions of Weimar Germany nor does the language match. But Lineker’s point was around dehumanising vulnerable groups for political gain.
And words do have an effect. Only recently there was a violent protest outside a hotel that is housing asylum seekers waiting for their applications to be processed. A report shows a rise in far-Right anti-immigrant hatred in the last year, fuelled by social media.
All this aside, Lineker has unwittingly played straight into the Tory election campaign plan. What the Tories don’t want is detailed analysis on how the Illegal Migration Bill doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Passionate outbursts against their Bill is exactly what they want. Prompting furious complaints from the opposition in the Commons on Wednesday was equally part of their election tactics. The Tories want the message loud and clear: it is they, not the Opposition, led by a “London leftie lawyer” who are taking action to solve the small boats crisis. And the more they can distract voters in Red Wall constituencies from the state of the NHS, education, too few promising jobs and the flatlining economy, the better. As for Lineker, one newspaper quickly labelled him as a leftie demagogue.
Both Labour and the Conservatives know that success at the next election largely depends on wooing the Red Wall vote. Despite the 26-point poll lead currently enjoyed by Labour, they still need to overthrow an 80-seat Tory majority. Sir Keir Starmer leaves himself wide open to defeat if he cannot win back support in Labour heartlands from Scunthorpe to Redcar. And the key issue on those doorsteps is illegal immigrants. A new poll this week found that it is the second-biggest concern among all 2019 Tory voters — even ranking above NHS surgery waiting times. Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, may be rolling his eyes at Lineker’s anger but the Tory election guru Isaac Levido will be elated.
I hold a healthy disdain for politicians who hide behind inflammatory rhetoric to dehumanise the vulnerable for electoral advantage. That doesn’t mean thinking the Government shouldn’t tackle migrants drowning in freezing seas. We have a problem in that our laws prevent people from claiming asylum until they are in the UK (unless we invite them, as we did with Ukrainians). Sneaking across the Channel is the only option, given we are an island.
In the absence of us changing that position and allowing applications on foreign soil, we need the Government to tackle the boats. And we must ensure the Prime Minister delivers his new “safe and legal” route for those seeking sanctuary, with MPs voting every year on how many to let in, as he stated. Further reform is needed — tackling the backlog because we are spending millions in accommodation and we need to think of methods to allow asylum seekers to work while they wait.
Unlike Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak is building bridges with France so that they stop the boats even getting to the Channel and lining the pockets of vile criminals. He has offered a two-for-one exchange with our neighbour. If they take an illegal immigrant back who arrives here from France, we will take two of their approved asylum seekers in return, though it looks like the French will reject it. As for the Illegal Migration Bill, we don’t know how it will work. But I suspect that wasn’t the point. Ultimately, it’s a Tory campaign laying the ground for next year’s election. Don’t be fooled.
Wednesday night was spent at the achingly cool Institute of Contemporary Art for a fundraising dinner in support of its 75th year. Like many London art institutions their funding has been drastically cut — they lost over £600,000. The ICA has always been a space for music and film as well as contemporary art. A young female cellist played during dinner and her wild, beautiful improvisations blew us away. Given this was a fundraiser, there were many there who worked in finance — the ICA needs their City-earned spending power. Her mesmerising performance was a timely reminder that no amount of money or influence can replace the importance of creativity in our lives. We must keep up support despite economic constraints, here in London and further afield. Art must remain for everyone, not just a fortunate few. And supporting the growth of artistic talent in an increasingly materialistic world is vital.
IN the battle between the billionaire Peltz family and their wedding planners, I think I know where I am putting my money.
A legal fight is ongoing between Nicola Peltz, her father and Brooklyn Beckham, and the second of the three wedding planners they got through for their nuptials in April. The planners released hundreds of ‘Bridezilla’ texts from Peltz after her father fired them eight days in. Beware Bridezilla but also the angry billionaire… Once you’ve released private texts, will a bride hire you if she thinks her messages will go public?