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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
John Crace

Jimmy Dimly pretends he’s serious about fantasy Rwanda treaty

James Cleverly with the union and Rwanda flags in the background
James Cleverly just wanted refugees to be happy in Rwanda. Photograph: Reuters

OK. Let’s take it easy for a bit. Stop caring so much. Just take some deep breaths. Realign the whatevers. Let the anger subside. Because being furious is the response that Rishi Sunak wants. The endgame of this government is a permanent culture war. Tilting at windmills. A descent into ever more binary politics. Where reason gives way to hate. Hating is so much easier. So much more fun.

This is the only way to cope with Sunak and his team these days. Stop trying to think of them as sentient beings. With a higher rational purpose. They now exist only to exist. That is their teleology. They have no interest in the UK or its people. In making things better. Their only goal is survival. To chase the soundbite of the day. No matter how idiotic and unworkable. To imagine there is a plan is a basic category error. Rather, we’re just being gaslit on a daily basis. Trolled to believe that the truth is whatever the government wants it to be that day.

Take James Cleverly. Again. Shit seems to follow the home secretary around wherever he goes. Though that sort of goes with the territory. You don’t need me to tell you that he’s not the brightest of ministers, but he’s still considerably more able than most of his colleagues. You will struggle to find any sign of synaptic activity elsewhere in cabinet. So Jimmy Dimly wins by virtue of the occasional misfire.

Not that it does him much good, as the prime minister merely sends him off to do all the things he can’t be bothered to do himself. As foreign secretary, this wasn’t too much of a problem as Jimmy D merely flew around the world at the UK taxpayers’ expense to shake hands with people. Nothing he did or said was of any great importance as no one in the rest of the world takes much notice of what this country thinks about international relations.

But promotion to a higher level of incompetence has its drawbacks. And as home secretary he now has to get his hands dirty in things he would otherwise gone to have great lengths to avoid. Like the Rwanda scheme. When he was foreign secretary, Dimly was all too happy to call it out for what it was. Complete batshit, he called it. A distraction designed merely to placate the lunatic fringes of the Conservative party. One that was never meant to be taken as a serious policy option. And for once in his life, he was absolutely right.

Imagine that. The irony. The pathos. How often is Jimmy D ever right? About once every two years? Maybe less frequently, even. And now he can’t even get to bask in the unexpected moment when the stars align. Because it was his bad karma to have been on a flight to Kigali to sign a fantasy treaty that was never going to be implemented. A waste of everyone’s time and energy. Delusional politics for a delusional government that would only be taken seriously by the deluded. And poor old Dimly was expected to act as if he was serious.

So at lunchtime on Tuesday, Dimly scrawled a signature alongside that of Rwanda’s foreign minister, Vincent Biruta. The treaty itself was a shabby affair. Something hastily knocked up on the back of an envelope.

The sentence that read “Rwanda is not really a safe country” had been changed to “Rwanda is a really safe country. Promise. Any problems, just ignore the ECHR.” That should easily take care of any objections from the supreme court.

Then came the joint press conference. Jimmy D took to the stage. He just wanted refugees to be happy in Rwanda. To feel as if they were on holiday. Not that he would ever dream of taking a holiday in Rwanda himself. But if he did, he was sure he would have a good time.

And no extra money had been offered to Rwanda to get them to sign the treaty. The very idea. Rwanda were just in it for the lols. They wanted to teach the world to sing. Anyone who said more money had changed hands would be shot.

Talking of which. People were so quick to rush to judgment on Rwanda. The country was doing its absolute best not to shoot refugees, but if a few stragglers were killed then we shouldn’t make too much of it. The Rwandans were only trying to do their best.

“This is not a treaty that has been signed because we are a government in search of easy answers or quick publicity,” Jimmy D said. Breathtaking. It’s literally the only reason they are doing it. And he knows that. His apparent lie was a subconscious plea to tell the truth. A desire for redemption. Forgiveness. He also couldn’t promise when any refugees would be deported. Because it’s just not going to happen any time soon. Dimly is the third home secretary to visit Kigali. Three more than the number of refugees deported. Just another tale told by an idiot.

Back home, it had been left to “Honest Bob” Jenrick to hold the fort. And the baby-faced immigration minister wasted no time in ramping up the rhetoric on legal migration as he toured the TV and radio studios on the morning media round. Honest Bob has never yet met an immigrant he didn’t want to deport – he’d wave off his own parents if he had the chance – and he feels that now is his time. The stars at last have aligned.

Was he bothered that reducing migration by 300,000 – still well above the Tory manifesto promise – would deplete the NHS and social care sectors? Not at all. People should be glad to die. Far better that than being cared for by foreigners. In any case, why couldn’t disabled people work harder? They were all far too lazy. And if 75% of Brits could no longer live with foreigners then that was all to the good.

Bizarrely, all of this was too much even for some members of the rightwing media. Sure, immigration needed to come down. But they had always assumed that the immigrants we were talking about were those with brown skin. It had never occurred to them that people they knew might be adversely affected. Honest Bob was having none of this. A foreigner was a foreigner. You couldn’t trust any of them. Enough was enough.

  • Depraved New World by John Crace (Guardian Faber, £16.99). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy and save 18% at Delivery charges may apply.

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