Labour leader in row over immigration policy

Labour’s former immigration minister Barbara Roche hits out at her party leader’s planned policy changes.

Opinion polls suggest that by 2015 Ed Miliband will be Prime Minister.  But in his anxiety to reassure voters that he understands their concerns about immigration, Miliband has sparked a row with Labour’s former immigration minister.

In an article for the Independent on Sunday on 20th January 2013, Barbara Roche – who was immigration minister in Tony Blair’s government from 1999 to 2001 – complains that “over the past few months there has been a concerted attack, from across the political spectrum, on the last Labour Government’s record on immigration.”

Mrs Roche – formerly Barbara Margolis – enjoyed a high flying career from her days as head girl of the Jews Free School in Camden (the largest Jewish school in Europe), via Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and several years as a Middle Temple barrister.  Elected as MP for the multi-ethnic Hornsey & Wood Green in 1992, she lost her seat in 2005 – seen as a political casualty of Tony Blair’s Iraq war, which she had strongly supported but which was opposed by many of her constituents, not least Muslim voters.

In her IoS article Mrs Roche points out that during her time as a minister there was a panic over asylum seekers, but no real debate over immigration policy (as opposed to asylum).  She argues that the assumption behind the 1971 Immigration Act – seeking to end “primary” immigration of the sort that had taken place on a large scale since the arrival of West Indian immigrants aboard the Empire Windrush in 1948 – was wrong.  According to Mrs Roche, “legal migration is, in an age of globalisation, an economic, social and cultural good.”

Mrs Roche’s article was provoked by Ed Miliband’s BBC interview a few days earlier, the latest of a series in which the Labour leader indicated that the Blair and Brown governments had made mistakes in underestimating the scale of Eastern European immigration, and failing to understand immigration’s impact on White working class Britons.

In a speech to the Fabian Society on 12th January, Miliband had gone even further:
“High levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in our country. And too often those in power seemed not to accept this. The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election. So we must work to ensure that it never happens again.”

Needless to say, Labour has no intention of adopting a genuinely sane immigration policy.  The internal dispute is over to what extent they should openly and proudly celebrate immigration (as Mrs Roche argues), or whether they should offer at least a pretence of caring about the White working class (as Mr Miliband seems to prefer).

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