Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Ballad of the Bibby Stockholm

A trip to the Isle of Portland, where Britain’s Conservative government has parked a barge full of migrants against the locals’ wishes.

(Ashley Smith/Wikimedia Commons)

The Isle of Portland, just off the southern coast of England, could not be more picturesque. Dotted with long-horned wild goats that graze the landscape, Portland’s grasslands are described by the conservation charity Plantlife as “important for their rare mosses, liverworts, and lichens, some of which are extremely rare.” The Victorian poet and novelist Thomas Hardy visited Portland often, calling it “the peninsula carved by time out of a single stone” and “the Gibraltar of the North.” It is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The crime rate on the island is a mere 7 percent of that in the City of London, 59 crimes per 1,000 residents in 2022, in contrast to the city of London’s 819 crimes per 1,000. Portland can proudly claim to be one of England’s most beautiful and safest cities. It’s also one of the whitest, with a population that is 94 percent white British. 


Naturally, leftists urgently want to destroy Portland with every fiber of their being. What drives the leftist mind to despise beauty? Is it nihilism or apathy? “Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter,” warned the late Roger Scruton. “Beauty is an ultimate value—something that we pursue for its own sake, and for the pursuit of which no further reason need be given.” 

Specifically, the leftist government of the United Kingdom, perversely led by something called the “Conservative Party,” is destroying Portland’s beauty by buying an ugly three-story barge called the Bibby Stockholm, which previously housed oil rig workers, filling it with over 500 migrants (mostly African, all male), giving each of them a free cell phone, and docking it off the coast of Portland indefinitely. The unemployed migrants are left to roam the town as they wish. They also get free buses and taxis to surrounding towns. 

In one fell swoop, the Bibby Stockholm will change the demographics of Portland (population 13,562) from 94 percent white to 90 percent. Four percent of the town will now be young African men.

On September 8, Portland Mayor Carralyn Parkes, acting in her capacity as a private citizen, launched a legal challenge against the Home Office to stop the barge. To date, her crowdfunding campaign has raised over £25,000. 

The reasons she lists for the challenge are as follows:

  • Zoning: The Home Office failed to declare the barge as a “development” under the Town and Country Planning Act of 1990, meaning it still needs a “planning application.”
  • Fire hazard: The Portland Fire Brigades Union sent a “pre-action protocol letter” to the Home Office outlining its concerns over fire safety.
  • Environmental regulation: Parkes argues that the Home Office has not complied with its environmental impact assessment duties.
  • Water cleanliness: Traces of Legionella bacteria were found in the barge’s water system.
  • Inhumane living conditions: Previously the barge’s capacity was 222, whereas it now holds more than double that.
  • Equality: The Home Office’s “Equality Impact Assessment,” required under the Equality Act of 2010, fails to consider the barge’s impact in “radicalising far-right extremism or the equality impact of segregating rather than integrating asylum seekers.”

It is both funny and sad how the mayor goes out of her way not to mention crime or demographic replacement. Possibly she is afraid of being called a Nazi by the left-wing groups that have lined up to defend the barge. 

I am, however, willing to say it out loud: the real issue with the barge is not zoning regulations or being a fire hazard. The real problem is rape, robbery, demographic replacement, and destruction of beauty. One wonders how many “rare mosses, liverworts and lichens” these migrants will trample, or how long it will be before the inhabitants of the Bibby Stockholm begin roasting the island’s wild long-horned goats over an open fire.

I flew to Portland myself to check out the barge and to see what local residents were thinking. While waiting for a train, I asked a posh-looking gentleman at the station how he felt about it. He was cautious about talking to me at first, but visibly perked up when he heard I wrote for a conservative outlet. 

“The big problem is that 90 to 95 percent of migrants are young men, many of them are criminals, with not much to give to the UK. The gender balance is just crazy. Keep that up for ten or fifteen years, do the math, and the UK will have the same gender imbalance problem that China is dealing with. And if you complain about it, you’ll get called a Nazi or a racist. So we just stay silent,” he said.

After the train, I took a taxi. My driver was a Muslim immigrant to the UK. He called the barge a sad situation, because he says that most of those men are exploited, trafficked and/or smuggled to the UK. He shook his head and told me about one man at his mosque who was smuggled here.

When I arrived in Portland, the first thing I did was pop into a local café and order a full English breakfast. Everyone in the café had something to say about the barge. It’s the talk of the town. I asked them to come to a consensus as to what percentage of the town they estimate opposes the barge. They concluded that roughly 80 percent of the town opposes it while 20 percent supports it. It was shoved down their throats, they say. Local politicians were not consulted! The decision was made unilaterally by the Home Office, in collaboration with privately owned Portland Port. 

Portland Port refuses to reveal how much they are charging the Home Office for berthing the barge, but it is widely assumed to be outrageously lucrative. Portland Port is owned by the Langham family, one of the richest families in the area. The Langhams are very well connected politically, and locals grumble that they are wielding that political clout to milk the government for massive berthing fees. Portland Port denies any impropriety.

The Langhams also own the nearby Langham Wine Estate. Portlanders are now boycotting that vineyard out of spite, refusing to buy the Langham’s wine. “I don’t know how John Langham will sleep at night in his luxurious home, with his tennis court and his fluffy bed, when asylum seekers are sleeping in tiny beds on the barge,” says Mayor Parkes.

When I finally went to see the barge, I couldn’t get very close. It was surrounded by 15-foot metal fencing and two sets of gates guarded 24/7. So I climbed a nearby hill to get a better view. On my climb up this hill, I spoke to roughly ten passing hikers about the barge. None of them seemed concerned about demographic replacement, but they each found it puzzling and infuriating that there would be 500 young men housed there with no women or children. That was universally their number one concern: they would find the barge much, much more palatable if there were women and children onboard. 

When I got back to my AirBnB, I asked my neighbor how she felt about the fact that her country will become less than 50 percent white British in a few decades, probably much sooner. How does she feel about her country becoming majority minority?

“We’ve always been a melting pot,” she shrugged apathetically.

“Not really, Britain was 95 percent white British when you were a kid,” I replied.

She just stared at me.