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Artillery Row

The Conservatives have endangered Britain

Photo ops cannot hide a decade of failure

It’s a touching testament to the power of human irrationality that there are people who believe, with all the passion in their souls, that the Conservatives are a band of hard right-wingers. To believe that I suppose you have to believe that they are infinitely more incompetent than they are evil. After all, this supposedly anti-immigration, anti-environmental and authoritarian government has seen immigration soar to record levels, is pursuing net zero and has overseen a steep fall in crime detection and charge rates.

Granted, the Conservatives want to look as if they are tough on immigration. Rishi Sunak has been attending an immigration raid in a flak jacket — looking like a child accompanying his dad at work. What was his presence supposed to accomplish? At least Boris Johnson sought photo ops near a warzone. 

The PM was photographed grinning, with his hands in his pockets, at what should have been — whatever you think of its necessity — quite a sad and serious occasion. Were there no adults to advise him to find something else to do?

Results, not symbolism, are what matters

Results, not symbolism, are what matters. Time and again, institutional laxness has endangered British citizens. The case of Salman Abedi alone should have probably brought down the Conservative government. Abedi’s Salafi family had moved to Britain as refugees from Libya, but traveled backwards and forwards as they stoked violence against Muammar Gaddafi. 

Why Britain was allowed to be used as a base for a gang of Arabic extremists — again, these were violent Salafis, not just political dissidents — has not been asked enough. Later — with numerous warning signs of his radicalism ignored — Abedi blew himself up in the AO Arena, killing 22 people, 10 of whom were children and teens. This was a failure of foreign policy as much as immigration policy. But the dead are just as dead.

Or take the case of Emad al Swealmeen. His asylum case was rejected in 2014 — he had claimed to be Syrian but he was not — yet he somehow stuck around in Britain until 2021, where he took a taxi to a hospital, laden with explosives and 2000 ball bearings, and somehow blew himself up in the vehicle. No one else was killed, thankfully — but imagine if he had been on the wards. 

Swealmeen had not even been lurking underneath the radar. According to the Telegraph, he had been arrested in Liverpool for brandishing a knife. So, what was he doing in the country?

Somehow, though, it’s the recent case of Adam Mohammed which is most offensive. Mohammed had come to the UK as a refugee from Sudan in 2016. In 2021, he gatecrashed a party at Exeter University and raped a girl who was both drunk and asleep. Yet Mohammed  “was granted final leave to remain in Britain last year by the Home Office,” Devon Live reports, “Despite the fact that he was already facing this rape charge.” 

Is this some kind of joke? Is it a mistake? It was bad enough when a Somali rapist’s deportation was obstructed by do-gooders in 2018 but if this report is accurate the Home Office has not even attempted to get rid of Mohammed. 

It gets worse: “he already had one conviction for an offence of battery committed outside a nightclub in Exeter in January 2022 when he was granted settled status in June 2022.” If a man accused of rape and convicted of battery is allowed to stay, who isn’t? Prime Minister Sunak should stop bothering immigration agents and invite the Home Secretary to 10 Downing Street to account for this. If true, it is an outrage.

Of course, these cases should not inspire anyone to make hostile judgements about refugees or immigrants in general. The government should face questions — and hard questions — about why the West African immigrant suspected of stabbing three people to death in Nottingham was in England, and if it could have been anticipated that he posed a threat to the public, but one of his victims was of migrant heritage and was by all accounts a wonderful and wonderfully gifted human being. 

Still, the questions must be asked. As it happens, I am an immigrant — if in Poland rather than Britain. If (God forbid) an English person did something abominable in Poland I wouldn’t want anyone making hostile judgements about me. But it would be fair for Polish people to ask what he was doing there and if it could have been predicted that he would endanger their compatriots. 

The first duty of a government is to protect its citizens. Of course, we must be careful that a government does not use this as an excuse to be oppressive, but that does not make it less true. The Conservatives have resoundingly failed.

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