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Monday, February 18, 2013 

Going soft? If only.

Chris asks, rhetorically, whether or not the Tories are going soft due to the move by George Osborne on tax avoidance and Tim Montgomerie's support for a mansion tax. They quite obviously aren't, not least for the reason Chris mentions, but also because they still seem to have it in their heads that portraying themselves as against immigration without actually stopping it will win them support.  You do almost suspect that all the recent scaremongering about the Bulgarians and Romanians flooding over here in a year's time is not because they are going to move here en masse, but precisely because they're not going to, with the coalition then taking the credit when they don't turn up.

This whole talking tough and then not actually doing anything process is one of those things that does undermine faith in politics.  Theresa May has no intention whatsoever of further legislating over Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, and the best that can be said for her intervention beyond the very slight impact it may have on the Eastleigh by-election is that it'll probably make judges even more determined to decide deportations on merit rather than attempt to appease the government.  Iain Duncan Smith for his part, beyond his decision to continue denigrating Cait Reilly, which says nothing whatsoever about her and absolutely everything about him, is similarly unlikely to get anywhere on "limiting" benefits to migrants, and they are most certainly not the ones putting pressure on the welfare system in the first place.

Soft simply isn't the right word for much of what government does, and this applies across the board and not just to the run by one party.  Under Labour for instance refugees from Iran who applied for asylum because they were gay were rejected as they were told they would be fine back home as long as they acted "discreetly"; since then things have moved on, with now the main reason for refusal being that the refugees aren't really gay at all, pushing some to such lengths that they've filmed themselves to demonstrate they are.  As for Sri Lanka, where some of those we've deported back to the country have since managed to return and been granted asylum after proving they were tortured on their return, today we have news of how we've sold them £2m worth of weaponry over the past year.  Meanwhile, in Libya, where it seems all the weapons we gave them to fight Gaddafi have since gone missing, we've decided we have to join in the re-arming race, and so a boat laden with the finest British defence equipment will be travelling to the country in April as a floating mini DSEI.

At least during Robin Cook's tenure as foreign secretary we pretended that we had an "ethical" foreign policy.  We didn't of course, as we carried on selling weapons to tyrannies and flogging radar systems to countries which couldn't afford them, but it was something.  Under the coalition our prime minister acts as arms dealer in chief, we urge the rich to come here while doing everything in our power to persuade the poor not to, and run ridiculous campaigns saying how great the country is regardless of the contradiction considering the former.  The best that can be said is that we haven't involved ourselves in Syria, beyond recognising the Syrian National Coalition, the opposition grouping that no one actually in Syria recognises.  And that isn't really going to figure on a list of great achievements.

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