Patrick O’Flynn Patrick O’Flynn

Keir Starmer won’t stop the boats

Natalie Elphicke and Keir Starmer in Dover (photo: Getty)

Labour’s new ‘stop the boats’ policy is a risible exercise in deception that will only ever fool the truly gullible.

The centrepiece, announced by Keir Starmer today, is to set up a new ‘Border Security Command’, which will be an elite force empowered to use anti-terror laws to ‘smash the people-trafficking gangs’.

Funding for the new force will come from savings made by scrapping immediately the Tory Rwanda removals policy, which Sir Keir branded a money-wasting gimmick that would never work.

Starmer must know it is all flannel

‘That is my message to the smugglers. These shores will become hostile territory for you. We will find you, we will stop you, we will protect your victims,’ he added.

But the security-based approach – busting the gangs through tough and high-profile law enforcement – has been tried before. As long ago as August 2020, the then-Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled a new ‘Clandestine Channel Threat Commander’ in the shape of dashing former Royal Marine Dan O’Mahoney.

Ms Patel said the aim was to make the cross-Channel route ‘unviable’ and that: ‘Dan’s appointment is vital to cutting this route by bringing together all operational partners in the UK and in France.’

A series of social media videos followed and O’Mahoney appeared before a Commons select committee to push the view that migrants crossing the Channel were just ‘vulnerable’ folk lacking their own agency and being ruthlessly exploited by the trafficking gangs.

But after a few months and a remorseless further rise in crossings, O’Mahoney dropped out of sight and his Twitter feed was mysteriously discontinued. Because it turned out there will always be criminals ready and able to put people into inflatable dinghies along more than 100 miles of French coastline, so long as there are people willing to pay big money for a berth. And so long as irregular migrants know there is next to zero chance of being removed from Britain once they land the demand will continue to be there and indeed is likely to grow.

So it was both frustrating and depressing today to see Labour launch a carbon copy approach. You could observe that never has a policy so completely met the famous Einstein definition of insanity – doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome – were it not for the fact that Starmer cannot be so naïve as to genuinely expect a different outcome.

He must know it is all flannel – as was the inclusion of Dover MP Natalie Elphicke at his press conference to lambast the Tories for their failures on this front.

Had the Tories set out the obvious need to create a powerful deterrent against irregular migration at the start of the parliament rather than halfway through, they would probably by now be in a position to draw attention to a degree of success.

Instead, they are reduced to telling us yet again that they are on the brink of a breakthrough. But after so many let-downs, who will believe them? The irony is that this time they may really be onto something – not only are the Irish complaining about UK-based asylum seekers streaming over their northern border, but media interviews with irregular migrants stating how fearful they are of being sent to Rwanda are cropping up all over the place.

But it is all too late. New figures released today show arrivals by small boat in 2024 are already at 9,000 and are not only running way ahead of last year but even ahead of the record year of 2022.

Labour’s plan is to allow Channel-crossers once more to apply for asylum, to bring in more ‘safe and legal routes’ and to terminate the embryonic deterrent against border gate-crashing.

If even 10 per cent of trafficking gang members are detained and jailed thanks to Labour’s elite new force then that will just push up the price of a berth in an inflatable, drawing in new entrants to the people-trafficking trade. It’s a market. Supply will respond to demand.

Starmer today tried to leverage his status as a former Director of Public Prosecutions to conjure the vista of Robocop success.

Most of the British public will be highly sceptical, but it is a fig-leaf. And thanks to the useless Tories being almost fully exposed themselves, a fig-leaf is probably all he needs.