OPINION - The Standard View: The Conservatives are in no man’s land on small boats

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Few campaign slogans have proved more potent in recent political history than that of ‘taking back control’. Those three words played a critical role in the vote to leave the European Union, most viscerally on immigration. Yet seven years on from the referendum, the Conservatives continue to flounder on the issue.

The Government aims to clear the backlog of initial asylum claims made prior to June 28, 2022, by the end of 2023. Indeed, the Prime Minister has made stopping ‘small boats’ one of his five key pledges. And in a speech today, Rishi Sunak reiterated that commitment.

Yet all this activity — from the Rwanda scheme to murmurings over Britain’s role in the European Convention on Human Rights — does not appear to be convincing voters. Just 29 per cent of Britons trust the Tories to have the right immigration policies, compared with 38 per cent who trust Labour, according to a recent Ipsos poll.

Sunak is also stuck in a bind in legal immigration. The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has placed great stall on raising the number of foreign students and economic migrants coming to Britain in order to staff our NHS, fund our universities and boost our economy. Yet ministers remain uneasy about the overall figures.

The Government is in danger of being caught in no-man’s land, neither hardline enough to stop the boats and be seen to take back control, nor as compassionate as some others would like it to be. Many see it as inept.

Mortgage nightmares

The spectre of a remortgaging spike is haunting many homeowners. Nationally, 640,000 borrowers are set to come off their fixed rate deal in the second half of this year, with many paying a rate of less than two per cent. But today, the average two-year deal stands at 5.72 per cent, a sharp rise even since Friday.

This will cause pain for households but confers a big macroeconomic risk. Faced with rising outgoings, families will prioritise putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head, leaving little else for the sort of discretionary spending that keeps an economy purring along.

Meanwhile, the rise of 35 and even 40-year mortgages, while seemingly attractive, will lead to higher total repayments, and the prospect of being a borrower in retirement.

Higher interest rates are necessary to drive inflation back to target. But the costs to households, and the dangers for the economy, are substantial.

Serpentine wonders

Playing it safe or an archaeology of the future? French-Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh has continued the tradition of circular Serpentine pavilions, on this occasion with a ply and laminated timber gazebo.

Since its inception in 2000, the annual pavilion has grown into one of the most keenly awaited events. And a signifier that the summer season has truly begun.