Justifying the inhumane and repugnant by saying ‘give me a better idea’ is a headlong leap into the abyss

Source: Tracy Newbold on Twitter

When I was a civil servant, it was always drummed into ministers that – whatever they said about the arms trade – the answer should never be ‘if we didn’t sell arms to country A, somebody else would’. This is a piece about refugees.

It’s a message that seems to have been lost today. But its rationale is obvious. It’s morally empty. Just replace it with ‘drugs’ and the argument falls apart. You need a better one. 

Ministers, former ministers and commentators fall into a similar moral abyss every time they endorse the Rwanda policy by saying ‘nobody has a better idea’. David Cameron was the latest to do this today.

David Cameron: Don’t criticise Rwanda plan unless you’ve got better answer Former Tory PM has ‘huge sympathy’ with crackdown on Channel people

There are two problems with what Cameron said, of course. Firstly, it’s not true that nobody has any other ideas. There are many far better qualified than I am to speak about that, but Cameron could try a few refugee organisations, lawyers or opposition MPs.

If he’s interested. 

But even if there WERE no other ideas, to justify something utterly inhumane and repugnant by saying ‘give me a better idea’, is to leap headlong into the moral abyss. 

‘Don’t approve of torture? You have a better idea’.

‘Don’t approve of capital punishment? You have a better idea’.

‘Don’t believe in removing all social safety nets and letting the sick and elderly fend for themselves? You have a better idea’. 

It doesn’t work. Or, insofar as it does, it only works in a country which is rapidly losing its moral compass. A country which is normalising the unthinkable. 

Here is a piece I wrote in 2021 for the Times Scotland about the ‘you have a better idea’ line of propaganda, featuring the heroic Jemma Forte.

And here is a piece I wrote last year for West Country Voices , with Rwanda very much in mind, about the normalisation of the unthinkable.

For many years, Alastair Stewart was an ever-present on ITV news. He alwayhad a likeable demeanour, a pleasant voice, and a professionalism that made sure he never betrayed his political allegiances…https://westcountryvoices.co.uk/it-could-never-happen-here-the-normalisation-of-the-unthinkable/

It may be self-indulgent to tweet old articles of mine. But the messages need repeating. With Rwanda, the unthinkable is being normalised. And ‘you come up with something better’ is one of the ways, morally vacant and intellectually lazy as it is, in which this is being done. 

Finally, a word about Cameron, that master of destruction. He is already responsible for untold damage to the country he professed to love and lead. He is a man who knowingly put to the vote something he must have believed would be catastrophic if it came to pass. 

With these casual remarks about Rwanda, he has come back for more. He has come back to hammer one more nail in the coffin of liberal Britain, with that casual, ‘trust me’ demeanour he has made his own.

Nice one, Dave.

You can read more articles by Richard Haviland here.