Illegal Migration Bill: Gary Lineker was right to compare Tory rhetoric to 1930s' Germany – Alex Cole-Hamilton

So, Gary Lineker took on the man from ‘Aunty’ and won. Good for him.
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His comment about the Conservative government’s Draconian plans to stop refugees coming here was short but devastating. He certainly speaks for me. His now famous tweet decried the Illegal Migration Bill as an “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language not dissimilar to that used in Germany in the 1930s”.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has introduced measures that will see anyone caught crossing the Channel in a small boat sent home or to Rwanda and barred from claiming asylum. She justified this by claiming there are 100 million people worldwide who could qualify for protection under current laws, and “they are coming here”. She spoke of “waves of illegal migrants breaching our border”. That’s the language Gary was talking about. He’s not wrong.

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His suspension raises big questions about BBC impartiality. It’s important news anchors and the like maintain a neutral public image. That commitment to impartiality is a huge part of what makes the BBC a keystone of our democracy. However, Lineker is a sports commentator. What he choses to say about anything else in his spare time is up to him. It would appear that’s the conclusion the BBC has come to.

This row has raised questions about the impartiality of chairman Richard Sharpe and director-general Tim Davie, who have links to the Conservatives. By appearing to bend so easily to Tory MPs calling for Lineker’s removal, they’ve threatened public confidence in a most cherished institution. Perhaps we should be considering their suitability for the positions they hold.

Lineker was right. The small boats policy is immeasurably cruel. The Conservatives have become so shrivelled and desperate that they’re again punching down on the dispossessed and vulnerable in a grim quest for votes.

Poet Warsan Shire wrote, “no one puts their child in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land”. The vast majority of those who arrive on those leaky crafts are fleeing persecution and death from places like Eritrea and Sudan. Of those who make it here, more than 80 per cent are granted asylum.

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We all want to stop the people smugglers’ death-trap boats, but that doesn’t mean penalising the people risking everything to come here. Instead, my party believes anyone who qualifies for asylum should be given a safe, legal route to get here, as we’ve done for those fleeing Ukraine.

A Manchester City fan holds up a sign in support of Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker (Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire)A Manchester City fan holds up a sign in support of Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker (Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire)
A Manchester City fan holds up a sign in support of Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker (Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA Wire)

Liberal Democrats are internationalists to our fingertips. We care passionately about people on the other side of the planet. My heart goes out to those who seek safe harbour on our shores. Any Government policy that undermines human rights and international law should be challenged with all our might.

For all the darkness that exists in our national history, light exists as well. In the Kindertransport, in our support for the Hong Kong Chinese and in our national response to famine in Africa in the 1980s. We must nourish that part of our country’s soul.

Sometimes reminders of our national conscience can come from an unlikely source. This last week the improbable figure of a football personality highlighted how far we have drifted into dangerous territory. We would do well to heed the warning.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western