How the Conservatives are turning politics ugly - Alex Cole-Hamilton

Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill is back in Parliament. Credit: Getty ImagesRishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill is back in Parliament. Credit: Getty Images
Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s Illegal Migration Bill is back in Parliament. Credit: Getty Images
As a member of an opposition party, Scottish Parliament debates often leave me with a sense of frustration or wondering what could have been.

In particular, the final debate that I took part in before we broke up for the summer recess left me with an overwhelming sense of sadness and disappointment.

Parliament was debating whether to give legislative consent to the UK Government’s so called ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ - legislation which will actively harm refugees fleeing the worst violence imaginable and make the circumstances of some of the most vulnerable people on our planet even more precarious.

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Its progress through the UK Parliament has been a disgrace, with multiple cabinet members deliberately using language to demonise and dehumanise refugees. At the same time, it is a bill that will do very little to tackle any of Britain’s real problems.The Conservatives know that, but they also know that they are a government that is quickly running out of road.

They create campaigns deliberately engineered to incite anger and emotion, with the hope that it will distract the electorate from their long record of failure. It’s why Douglas Ross, Alister Jack and Rishi Sunak are all intent on breaking international law.

They appear perfectly content with turning people seeking help into their scapegoats to achieve this goal. It truly is the worst and ugliest form of politics.

I am someone who believes that politics can be a force for good. It’s what motivated me to get elected in the first place but currently, our country is being woefully let down by both our governments.While the Conservatives pander to their right-wing activists by stirring the pot over immigration, the SNP have been trying to gee up their own single-minded membership by pushing their nationalist separation agenda rather than on focusing on the issues that really matter like the cost-of-living crisis, our NHS and the climate emergency.

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Whilst of course they have their differences, both the SNP and Conservatives are similar in a fundamental way. They act as if the nations that they govern are homogenous groups that all want the same thing in a bid to enforce their own outlook on the country.

The Liberal Democrats however acknowledge and celebrate the fact that our society is diverse, and our country contains huge variations in needs, desires, and opinions.

Pioneering suffragette Millicent Fawcett put it best when she said, “I am a liberal because liberalism means faith in the people, confidence that they will manage their own affairs far better than those affairs that are likely to be managed by others.”

What makes us unique as a party is that although we fiercely believe in the fact that individuals should have the opportunity to make in life what they want of it, we also recognise people’s ability to do so is critically affected by their circumstances and that individuals do not exist on their own, but rather within communities.

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That means tackling structures of inequality that hold people back and delivering public services that will lift people up. The last time we were in government in Scotland, we introduced free healthcare measures such as dental checks, eye checks and personal care. We launched the bus pass for older and disabled people, transformed teacher pay and pioneered the smoking ban.

Despite our best efforts, the Illegal Migration Bill will likely become law. However, as the Conservatives and the SNP pander to their own narrow interests, I can guarantee that my party will continue to fight for equality, fairness, and liberty for all.

Even the most astute political observer cannot predict what will happen next in our politics but it feels to me as if a sea change is coming and with it the opportunity to consign ill-willed legislation like this to the dustbin of history.

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