Or, why I thought the joke in my last comic was actually a bit shit but posted it anyway…
Last night I posted a new cartoon over on comic.conniptions.org featuring Rishi Sunak.
I’ve not drawn him before and it’s been a good while since I last drew a political caricature, so I was pleased with how that part of it came out.
But the joke, such as it is, no matter how much I worded and re-worded it, doesn’t seem to land quite as well as I’d hoped it would.
I chose to keep it, because in this case, that is itself part of the point of the joke.
The background is the current - utterly insane, utterly disgusting - Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill currently going through the UK Parliament. This aims to unilaterally declare Rwanda to be a safe country to deport asylum seekers to, as a precursor to - the government hopes - removing any remaining legal impediments to doing just that. The Bill arose in response to a judgement by the Supreme Court that Rwanda was not, in fact, a safe country in any way shape or form, and that implementing the plan to deport asylum seekers there would break international law in several ways.
The BBC have provided a general overview of the Rwanda asylum plan here.
David Allen Green, whose talent at making legal minutiae accessible to non-legal experts remains unmatched, breaks down the judgement of the Supreme Court in great detail here.
The Guardian coverage of this has been consistently good, including this recent piece, where the headline is also a trigger warning for anyone wishing to retain some shred of sanity: Revealed: UK granted asylum to Rwandan refugees while arguing country was safe.
Fully unpicking this particular Matryoshka doll of bullshit is way beyond the scope of this blog post, and no doubt some future PhD history of politics student - if there are such things - will have a miserable few years doing so at some point in the future, if there is one.
But there are a couple of things going on here - obvious things perhaps - but things that need pointing out and remembering nonetheless.
Firstly - why are we even fucking talking about this? The idea of a UK government plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is so completely inhuman, so openly far-right, that it is hard to imagine even the Tory party of five years ago being able to stomach it. Even Theresa May - no soft-hearted liberal - could not support it. But we are fucking talking about this, and we are doing so because the far-right takeover of the Tory party is now complete, to the extent that several Tory rebels could not support the Bill at latest reading because it did not go far enough for them.
It is not so many years in the scheme of things since my family immigrated to the UK hoping to find a tolerant country where the far-right would not have a hope of taking over. Well, here we are. We have an actively far-right government, doing actual far-right things, right now, today. Do not forget this.
Secondly - this is a particularly egregious example of post-truth politics. The attempt by the government to get around the legal facts in the judgement set out by the Supreme Court, by simply declaring Rwanda to be safe - by fiat - would be laughable if it were not actually happening. But in the context of Brexit, of Trump, of Putin’s war in Ukraine, of the continued existence of anti-vaxxers and climate-change deniers - it is just a normal Tuesday.
Of course politicians have always lied: that’s been a thing as long as there have been politicians. But this is King Cnut territory, only with, you know, everything. It’s different, and worse, and terrifying, and the Wikipedia article about it is both much better and much longer than it should be.
Do not forget this either.
And so to my weak joke. In the comic, Sunak exhorts the Lords to finally pass his ridiculous bill, which seeks to solve a problem by unilaterally overriding reality, so why stop there? Comic Sunak goes on to mention two further bills he has in mind, one of which will solve the Brexit problem by unilaterally declaring it a unilateral success, and one of which will solve his own political problems by declaring him personally to be ‘a really popular guy actually’.
If this doesn’t raise a particular chuckle, that’s because in a post-truth world and under a far-right government that has long parted company with any notion of objective reality, it is easy to see at least the first of these Bills actually being proposed - and far worse.
But I posted it anyway - if nothing else as a reminder to myself about these things.
Retaining some semblance of sanity under such conditions involves a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. You have to pretend - at least a bit - that everything is not quite so bad as all that, because otherwise it is all too much and nothing good comes of it. But you also need to remember from time to time. Because nothing good comes from the ostrich thing either. And there are things to be done. Small things, perhaps, but things nonetheless.
If you’ve read down this far, I hope you too are trying to do some of those small things, maybe even not-so-small things, and more power to your elbow if so.