Hello. It looks like you�re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best Tortoise experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help, let us know at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.com

Muddled asses

Muddled asses

What just happened

Long stories short

  • E Jean Carroll wept in court after describing being raped by Donald Trump.
  • Xi Jinping phoned Volodymyr Zelensky and urged him to negotiate with Putin.
  • Microsoft said Britain was closed for business after regulators blocked its purchase of Activision Blizzard.

Muddled asses

British MPs took a big step last night towards approving a new law designed to stop refugees trying to cross the English Channel in small boats. 

So what? It won’t. Refugees will go on trying as long as they can get to northern France. What the bill will do is

  • violate the UK’s obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees by making it illegal to claim asylum on arrival without permission;
  • lead to the detention and in principle the deportation of people arriving in small boats, including children; and
  • allow the prime minister and home secretary to tell voters before the next local and general elections they are fulfilling a pledge to get tough on illegal immigration. 

The politics. The Illegal Migration Bill is part of Number 10’s attempt to shore up support among MPs and voters, but it has also reinforced the divisions in the Conservative party. Rishi Sunak averted a potentially embarrassing rebellion when it passed by 289 votes to 230 last night but the numbers bely turmoil on the Tory benches. Sunak’s attempts to keep the Tory right onside may prove a pyrrhic victory. 

Why? Rebels and would-be rebels are calculating that the PM will be out after the next election, and they might as well be prepared should a crisis derail him before then. Sources say several cabinet ministers are already on manoeuvres. 

Expectations for next month’s local elections are low, but MPs say if the Conservatives’ results are worse than in 2019, letters could start trickling in to the 1922 Committee. Although a no-confidence vote is far from likely, Sunak was seen working the tea room after Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday – a sure sign of a fretful leader.

For the bill: support comes largely from the self-styled Common Sense Group, led by Sir John Hayes, who has the ear of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, as well as Red Wall MPs such as Lee Anderson and Jonathan Gullis.

Against: moderate One Nation Tories don’t often break cover as a caucus but they have significant names and numbers when they do:

  • Former prime minister Theresa May condemned the bill for its failure to protect victims of modern slavery as “a slap in the face of those of us who care”.
  • Former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox said the bill could allow ministers to “deliberately disobey” international obligations.
  • Former children’s minister Tim Loughton, who has campaigned to create safe and legal routes for child asylum seekers, backed down from leading a rebellion but made it clear his support for the bill was conditional on ministers doing “the right thing” before the bill’s final reading.  

Uncivil. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, shows no sign of backing down. Yesterday she ruled out introducing a safe and legal route for asylum seekers in Sudan to seek refuge in the UK. With only anecdotal evidence from conversations with police, she said migrants arriving on small boats were “criminals” who “possess values which are at odds with our country”. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick called them “asylum shoppers”.

At sea. Tory MPs have been told by the Downing Street election strategist Isaac Levido that tackling small boat arrivals is essential to keep the party on a “narrow path” to victory at the next election. Sunak has promised to resolve the issue for the same reason. That doesn’t make his hardline approach universally popular; nor is there any confidence among migration experts that it will work. But it just might help limit the damage at the ballot box next week.


Disney sues DeSantis
The mouse ears have come off. After a year going toe-to-toe with Florida’s governor and likely presidential contender Ron DeSantis, Disney is taking him to court. What began as a dispute over a state ban on schools teaching gender identity has escalated into a political and geographical land grab in which DeSantis is trying to wrestle away Disney’s long-held ability to govern its own parks. In a 77-page lawsuit, Disney says it has been forced to defend itself from a state “weaponising its power to inflict political punishment”. It also claims a new – previously Disney-controlled – local tourist board appointed by the governor violates Disney’s contract rights, economic future and constitutional right to free speech. Even for “anti-woke” DeSantis, taking on the Magic Kingdom in court would be a bold move ahead of a presidential run. Diary note: DeSantis will be in Westminster tomorrow courting Conservatives in the final stop of a global trade tour that’s taken in South Korea, Japan and Israel.


God of chips
The world has one overwhelmingly dominant maker of the machines that print the silicon wafers in ultra-fast chips. It’s called ASML Holding NV, is based in Veldhoven in the Netherlands and is building a new machine that costs as much as a Boeing 787 and can print circuits on wafers smaller than a virus. Why? Partly because there’s a demand for them for the servers that power AI, but also because ASML needs an alternative growth strategy to the obvious one, which used to be to sell to China. Trump nixed that on security grounds and the Biden administration has doubled down on tech transfer to the country that wants to invade Taiwan. There’s a paradox at work here: sanctions as the mother of invention.

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Killer syrup
Poisonous cough syrup is circulating in the Western Pacific. It’s made by QP Pharmachem Ltd in India and sold to Cambodia, but how it got to Micronesia and the Marshall Islands is a mystery. What is clear is that the syrup can be dangerous, especially for children. It’s contaminated with “unacceptable amounts” of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, and the WHO says consumption can be fatal. So far no deaths have been reported in the Western Pacific, but the risks are only too real. Last year more than 300 children, most of them under five, were killed across Indonesia, Gambia and Uzbekistan after taking similarly contaminated medicines.

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

Stand under my umbrella
On a state visit to America this week, Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s president, and Joe Biden announced an agreement on nuclear coordination. Under the “Washington Declaration”, Biden agreed to boost consultation with Seoul in the event of conflict with North Korea, while South Korea renewed a pledge not to pursue nuclear weapons of its own – a possibility Yoon stepped around earlier this year. Biden also said the US would send a ballistic-missile submarine to South Korea for the first time in decades. The goal: to reassure South Koreans, who look north to Pyongyang’s growing pile of missiles and bombs and doubt whether they can still trust America to protect them if war breaks out. It’s unclear if this agreement will be enough to satisfy public opinion, but it shows America is taking Seoul’s concerns seriously. Combined with an “impromptu” (read, carefully planned) rendition of American Pie in front of Angelina Jolie at last night’s state dinner, Yoon can call it a good day’s work.

culture society identity and belonging

Pre-coronation questions
Papers filed in Prince Harry’s lawsuit against the Sun include a claim that in 2020 his brother accepted a “very large sum” from the newspaper’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, in a secret deal to spare the royals from having to testify in court proceedings about phone hacking. This raises important questions, including: When was the settlement made exactly? Who brokered it? How much was it for? Was it £1 million as the Telegraph has reported? Were there separate agreements for the Crown and William? What happened to the money? Did any of it go to Diana-related charities or did William or the Crown pocket it? Was Harry’s phone hacked and if so did the settlement cover that? Has there been a discernible change of position in NGN newspapers towards Camilla becoming Queen? If so when did that change occur and was it related to the hacking settlement? Just asking.

Thanks for reading. Please tell your friends to sign up, send us ideas and tell us what you think. Email sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Catherine Neilan

Additional reporting by Giles Whittell, Anna Scott, Jess Winch and Phoebe Davis.

Photographs Getty Images, Andy-Bailey/UK Parliament

Choose which Tortoise newsletters you receive