The OP is correct. The Tories are desperate to win the next election so this is what they think will appeal to the electorate. And it will - to a certain segment.
They can always rely on a their basic supporters - the likes of those who voted for Liz Truss! 😳 But they were in danger of losing others who gave them such a resounding victory in 2019. Those who function at the 3-word sound-bite level ie Get Brexit Done, Oven-Ready Deal, etc..
It’s these types that they want to win back, hence the Stop the Boats slogan.
I think that's true. It seems many asylum seekers have been housed in deprived areas, which isn't surprising because that's where the spare capacity is. Many of these areas are "red wall" and were a target for UKIP before they backed down from competing against Tories. I think the rhetoric and stoking the flames of a culture war is quite deliberate. They know the current plans won't work, but they'll be able to claim they tried and it was the "blob" of lefties who stopped them.
The Tories can't fight an election on their record on the economy, the NHS, public services, the environment, but there are people with a range of different voting histories who will vote with them on cultural issues, even if they shoot themselves in the foot economically. They learnt that from Cummings and the referendum.
There are local elections in many areas in May - it will be interesting to see how the parties approach them. I suspect we're going to see a number of independent "Stop the boats" kind of parties.