Prime Minister Rishi Sunak proudly announced last week that his government has bought two enormous barges to house up to 1,000 migrants as part of his plan to tackle the flood of would-be asylum-seekers crossing the Channel to England.
Television pictures of one of the barges, normally used for offshore construction projects, showed a vast, four-storey housing block, which will be floated into Portland Port, Dorset, later this month to accommodate 500 males.
I doubt if I am the only one whose mind went back to our history books or to Charles Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations, which described prison ships, known as “the Hulks”, which took the overflow from prisons at the time.
The reason for these bizarre purchases is that the search for space for asylum seekers has reached critical proportions.
Nearly 3,000 are to be accommodated by autumn on two military sites, Mr Sunak announced.
Many arrivals are taken to hotels, but this is costing the state £7 million a day, as well as angering British people who sometimes find weddings and receptions cancelled.
Last month there was a near riot when migrants refused to stay in a London hotel after being told they would need to sleep four persons in a room.
Mr Sunak says his plan to stop the small boats is “starting to work” and crossings are down 20 per cent compared to last year.
Some 7,600 people have been detected crossing the Channel so far this year, in contrast to the record 45,755 who crossed in all of 2022.
It is clear Mr Sunak is placing great hopes on his Illegal Immigration Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, which seeks to change the law so that those arriving without permission will be detained and removed, either to their home or to a third country such as Rwanda.
The proposed legislation passed in the House of Commons by 289 votes to 230 but has received much criticism from its peers, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who described it as “morally unacceptable”.
The archbishop criticised the Bill for not addressing the two key causes of international migration, namely war and the climate crisis.
In a speech in the upper house, he said, “(The Bill) is isolationist, it is morally unacceptable and politically impractical to let the poorest countries deal with it alone.”
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The Chinese are supposed to be the world’s greatest gamblers, but Brits might push them for the title.
When Tim Piper, who runs the Cricketers Arms pub in Redditch, Worcester, saw Josh Tongue, 6, playing cricket with his dad in the family garden, he reckoned the boy had huge potential.
When Josh was 11, in 2009, Tim telephoned the bookmakers Coral and placed a £100 bet that the young bowler would one day play Test cricket for England.
He got odds of 500-1, which meant a £50,000 payout on a 14-year-old bet if Josh ever got a Test cap.
And that is exactly what happened last weekend when fast bowler Tongue, now 25, played for England for the first time, in a Test match against Ireland.
What’s more, he took five wickets for 66 runs, which cricket fans will recognise as a notable feat, known as a “fifer”.
A final word on this revered game. The annual Wisden Cricketers Almanac, known as the bible of cricket, reports that an Armenian account of Jesus’s boyhood has been discovered in which the founder of Christianity takes boys to the shore “carrying the playing ball and the club”.
It says Jesus “would go over the waves of the sea as if he was playing on a frozen surface, hitting the ball.”
The first account of a cricket match? Certainly sounds like a tricky wicket.
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A few days after this column was published last week ruminating on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence, a report said AI could actually wipe humans off the face of the planet.
This prompted a letter to the Metro newspaper suggesting that was a step too far.
Wrote Julian Self, “For decades, humanity has been quietly working on eradicating itself through war, weapons of mass destruction, destruction of the ozone layer, antibiotic resistance and, most recently, climate change. To put in so much work and have the prize snatched from your grasp at this late stage seems most unfair.”
Maybe humour is the only way to take such news.
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Meanwhile, and obviously the man’s point of view…
No English dictionary has been able to explain the difference between the words, Complete and Finished. Some people say they mean the same, but hang on…
When you marry the right woman, you are Complete and when you marry the wrong woman, you are Finished. When your wife catches you with another woman, you are Completely Finished and when your wife loves shopping, you are Finished Completely.