One of the most important rules for politicians dealing with a Summer Crisis is that you must be seen to be Doing Things to deal with that crisis, even if those Things aren’t really very much to do with the cause of the crisis and won’t really make much difference to it overall.
Take the latest announcement, which in keeping with those rules of dealing with a Summer Crisis is in fact a re-announcement but made in a sterner voice. Landlords who do not check their tenants’ immigration status will now face a five-year jail sentence, while the immigrants themselves can be evicted without a court order. These new plans, announced today as part of the government’s response to the Calais crisis, but first mooted before the election, follow a pilot in the West Midlands.
The pilot may be a useful way of reassuring landlords that they won’t be smothered with regulations as a result of the new policy. But it wasn’t all that handy for poor Greg Clark, who was forced to admit on the Today programme that he didn’t know how many illegal immigrants had been deported after being evicted through that pilot scheme. He said:
‘I don’t have those figures with me. What’s important is that we have been able to establish in the West Midlands a system that actually landlords, the Home Office, the immigration authorities all recognise as being effective.’
So it’s not clear whether the Things the government is announcing to deal with the Summer Crisis will really make much difference to the number of illegal immigrants who stay in this country – and it’s really not clear how these Things will make any difference at all to the situation in Calais. But at least ministers can say they are doing something.
The next rule, of course, is that someone must cut their holiday short to show they are Taking The Summer Crisis Seriously. Given David Cameron has already infuriated some quarters of the media with plans for three different holidays, he’ll be hoping it’s not his turn to head back to London at some point, just to pretend that being in Whitehall rather than at the end of a secure phone line will Make a Difference To The Crisis too.