It’s the time of year when people turn to the story of the Nativity to take some inspiration for their lives. Some look to the Magi and collect presents for underprivileged children, some to the shepherds by decorating their houses with stars. Suella Braverman’s all about Herod and massacring innocents.

You may have seen the video clip in which our home secretary, when asked how people seeking asylum should actually go about seeking asylum, fails to come up with any method that doesn’t involve sitting in a small boat as it crosses the Channel. After repeatedly saying that people should use “safe and legal routes”, Braverman flounders and confirms that, for anyone who hasn’t come from Syria, Afghanistan or Ukraine, there aren’t any safe or legal routes – because she and her predecessors closed them all.

This led to two equally unedifying spectacles: one was right-wing commentators acting surprised when their government tried to stop anyone arriving in Britain, despite having spent the last two decades screeching at governments to take exactly this action. The other was the equally sickening sight of more liberal parts of the media expressing admiration for the person who had asked the question: Tim Loughton.

Loughton hasn’t much troubled the public consciousness, but when he has it has always been as a man who resembles a self-satisfied condom full of raspberry Angel Delight. He’s a character who seems cut from an old copy of Whizzer and Chips, winking at the reader as he dodges a caning for scrumping pies from the school tuck shop, or loudly lamenting “Yaroo!” in the final panel.

There’s no real way of despising Braverman and not despising every home secretary since Michael Howard

You might remember him from the times he voted against same-sex marriage, or when he employed his wife at the taxpayer’s expense, or when he was Andrea Leadsom’s leadership campaign chief. You may have some dim memory of him trying to get Leadsom supporters to march on Westminster. Cue an unimpressive gaggle of tweedy buffers mobility-scootering their way down Whitehall, while Loughton leaped about trying to inject joie de vivre into a group that, collectively, hadn’t had a moment of passion since the Falklands War (it wasn’t just the Belgrano that went down that night, eh Marjorie?). Loughton has always occupied that shelf of Conservative backbenchers reserved for “ruddy dumplings who are ridiculous without actually being dangerously unwell.” He’s like an oleaginous shit who has languished outside Cabinet because he’s so slimy he can’t get any purchase on the bowels of government.

Nevertheless, after this intervention, liberal papers and outlets were queuing up to describe him as “intelligent” and “principled” rather than “berkish” and “a wanker”. He did the rounds, unfortunately not-quite-speechless with glee at his own jape, even happily confessing that he’d done the same thing to Priti Patel a few months ago, but no one had noticed because, well, it’s usually best not to notice the things done by Tim Loughton.

It is, of course, an enduring blot on our country that there aren’t safe and legal ways for people to seek a safe haven here. Nor, indeed, are there safe and legal ways to seek a better life in the UK, but it’s also startlingly disingenuous of our media class and politicians to pretend that this hasn’t been their aim after twenty years of flirting with the language of the far right.

You can’t both laud Tim Loughton and applaud Keir Starmer for saying that British business must end its dependence on immigration. Except you can, of course. That’s exactly what our commentariat will do: make sad noises about the number of asylum seekers who die while awaiting a decision and, at the same time, do all they can to foster a national culture that’s hostile to anyone arriving from another country for whatever reason.

It’s possible that they believed you could run stories about asylum seekers eating swans, claim our schools were “swamped”, use the historic language of the Nazis when referring to immigrants, and constantly bleat about the “economic concerns” of imaginary northern racists, without creating a proto-fascist state. But it’s hard to see how. That’s the problem with dog whistles. Eventually, you’ll attract a dog.

It’s easy to despise Suella Braverman. Her actions and opinions are despicable. They are, however, the traditional actions and opinions of her office as home secretary; ones on which the British media have insisted throughout my adult life. There’s no real way of despising Braverman and not despising every home secretary since Michael Howard: David “our schools are swamped” Blunkett, Jack “I’m afraid of constituents wearing hijabs” Straw, John “the immigration service is not fit for purpose” Reid, Jacqui “tougher work restraints for migrants” Smith, Theresa “vans with GO HOME written on the side” May, Sajid “cut immigration by 80 per cent” Javid, or Priti “don’t make me list it all” Patel.

Still, uniquely among them, Braverman has been outwitted by Tim Loughton, an experience that must be like being beaten at Scrabble by a punnet of figs. Still, she managed to top it a couple of days later. Her decision to distribute people infected with diphtheria around the country must be based on a belief that Matt Hancock’s performance in IACGMOH is down to the British people’s love of sending infected people into vulnerable communities with no screening.

Yes, our system is inhumane, cruel and unjust. It is designed to be so, and the British public enjoy the fact that it is. People dying in small boats serve to remind us all of how immensely clever we were to be born on an island. Home Office officials regularly add years to the ages of children arriving in the country, so that they don’t have to be treated with the appropriate care. So, at least they’d have been safe from the real Herod. It’s just a shame they’re vulnerable to the whims of his successors.

Nathaniel Tapley is a comedy writer and performer on the TV shows you hate

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Dear God!!!!! Is that called humour??? What a deeply, deeply unpleasant person. Fancy wasting all of that money at the charm school.
    And not only is it like a child writing ‘bum’ jokes in homework time…..most of it is entirely untrue.
    For many years I kept a rental property solely for children who had arrived alone in the uk……and gave them a safe home, rather than letting them languish in unsafe B&Bs. From personal experience I can tell you that the Home Office….rather than adding years to the migrants, actually accepted the age that they offered when they arrived here……which is why I had so called “15 year olds” with lined foreheads and grey in their hair. Well done Nathaniel Tapley…..whoever you are….for your lecture on a subject about which you patently know very little but can use it to write unpleasant bollocks. How about finding a useful job and giving something back to society??/

    Reply

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