Look over there! Look at the migrants, look at them! They’re there look! Look! Don’t look over here, look over there! Culture wars, migrants, the British people! ~ possibly the Conservative party, 2023.

Go to the local boozer and ask the closest Brexit geezer what the main issues of the day are and you’ll likely be treated to your own personal seminar about migrants, free speech, and how any day now, any day now, Dear Lord, any day now, our newfound Brexit freedoms are going to deliver the proverbial dividend to your door. What references they do make to the cost of living will be dropped at the door of “the war in Ukraine” and “the pandemic”, as if those issues were solely faced by the UK.

Except it won’t be your own personal speech because the same talking points will fall from the mouths of those self-aggrandising politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg and will be found on the front pages of the best-selling newspaper in the country. That’s the Daily Mail, by the way, edited by the man whom Boris Johnson nominated to be the head of Ofcom.

But these arguments aren’t only controversial, they’re insidious in the nature in which they are employed. These talking points are used to distract the population, made to make everyone angry until all they see are immigrants walking towards them through the red mist, instead of discussing the most pressing issues of the day such as the cost of living, why our electricity prices are the highest in the world, why everything is broken and everyone is striking, why 2 million people in the UK have to rely on food banks to live, and why the UK is set to have the slowest growth in the G20, even performing worse than the sanction-hit, war-riddled Russian economy.

And we know these are distractions, we’ve been told so by the very people who are perpetrating them. Little time has passed since Lee Anderson, the conservative deputy chairman, casually quipped that the Conservatives “should fight the election on culture wars and trans-rights”. This is a clear indication that the government is more interested in manipulating emotions than addressing real issues. By perpetuating divisive culture wars, they avoid accountability and fail their constituents.

A press conference was held by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on 7 March 2023, introducing the Illegal Migration Bill
In March 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak introduced the Illegal Immigration Bill to help fulfil one of his five pledges; to stop illegal immigration via small boat English Channel crossings. Image from YouTube.

I’m not saying that the immigration issue is not there. I don’t want an open-door policy, the system is clearly broken and the conservatives have only, seemingly, made it worse by refusing to distinguish between genuine asylum seekers and would-be economic migrants.

But, it's time for the UK to start having real conversations about the real problems at hand. The cost of living is becoming increasingly unmanageable, with many people struggling to pay rent or even buy groceries. Walk around London, this housing crisis is leaving people homeless on the streets, and social services are strained to their limits. People need to be able to rely on a well-functioning society that provides for their basic needs, rather than being subjected to fear-mongering headlines about migrants and trans rights.

The awful thing is that the tactic is working. Would-be Labour voters have been put off Kier Starmer because he refuses to get involved in the culture wars debate, they instead focus on the fact that he can’t define what a woman is, as if his not providing a definition for a woman is the reason their cupboards are bare, and their houses are cold.

If this country is to succeed, if not just the lives of everyday people, but the genuine prospects of this nation are to improve, then we have to stop falling victim to this populist culture war politics. It sickens me to think that while the government are dismantling this country's social security, the people that it is there to protect are too busy shaking their fists and clapping along to the next three-word slogan.

In a year’s time, the country will have a decision to make, to continue to self-sabotage, pass the blame on to whoever is the scapegoat of the day, and vote Conservative, or look in the mirror, realise the very real issues that are present in the country, and vote for change.

Sean Ryan
Sean Ryan

PhD in Chemical Engineering. Interests in politics, society and economics. Born in Manchester, living in London. Loves to experience different cultures and indulge in different viewpoints.

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