Six weeks before the probable date of the General Election, a major politician has at last dared to address the taboo subject of immigration in what was billed as a major speech. That politician is none other than Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Yet after he had conceded that the high rate of immigration rightly worries many people – it is one of the two concerns uppermost in people’s minds, according to polls – Mr Brown’s pay-off in a speech long on rhetoric but short on proposals was calculated to shut down debate. His preposterous claim was that New Labour, which has presided over a threefold increase in immigration since 1997, can be trusted to bring it under control.

He ended by launching an apparent attack on the Tories: ‘The question is who has the best plan to control immigration – not who can appeal to our worst instincts of nationalism and xenophobia, but who can appeal to our best instincts of a fairer Britain for all decent hard-working families across our country.’

Talk about dishonest politics! Far from stirring up ‘our worst instincts of nationalism and xenophobia’, the Tories have barely opened their mouths on the subject of immigration. Whereas before the 2005 election they aired some anxieties – and were pilloried by New Labour and some in the Left-wing media for being racist – they have so far said precious little.

Mr Brown was in effect warning them to keep it that way. He fears that, if they were so minded, the Tories could make a devastating attack on this Government’s abysmal record over immigration. in order to head them off, he unearths those old deadly charges of nationalism and xenophobia – sisters of the still more deadly charge of racism.

Meanwhile, we may be fairly certain that in constituencies in which Labour is challenged by the British National Party it will appear to sympathise with those affected by mass immigration.

On a national level, however, it will ludicrously claim to have the problem under control, and threaten to expose the Tories as racist should they dissent in any way. Isn’t this all utterly depressing?

It remains impossible to have a mature and reasoned discussion about uncontrolled immigration without scurrilous allegations and false statistics flying around. Mr Brown may pretend it is no longer a taboo subject but that is exactly what he would like it to be.

To be fair to the Tories, they did respond quite robustly, pointing out in a press release some of the Government’s many mistakes, none of which was mentioned by the Prime Minister in a speech free of the slightest word of apology or regret for the past.

New Labour distinguished itself by estimating that only 13,000 Eastern Europeans would come to Britain after their countries joined the European Union. in the event more than a million arrived. The Government could have limited the influx, as some EU countries did, but chose not to in the mistaken belief that there would only be a trickle.

There are reckoned to be up to 700,000 illegal immigrants in the UK, and the Home Office has lost the files of 40,000 of them. Countless rejected asylum sleeks have vanished. Stories of Home Office incompetence are legion.

Only yesterday we learnt how Alphonse Semo, a Congolese who served eight years here for a particularly nasty rape, was allowed by the authorities to marry an EU national while being held in jail prior to deportation. As a result, he may be entitled to stay here indefinitely. The pathetic response of Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, and possibly the most intellectually challenged person ever to have served in a British government (which is saying something), was to the effect that it was not for him to stand between a man and his intended bride.

New Labour’s record over immigration is one of dazzling ineptitude. In part, of course, apparent errors may have been deliberate. A recently revealed document, as well as the testimony of a former Government adviser, suggest it may have encouraged immigration so as to boost its electoral support, the supposition being that first generation immigrants overwhelmingly vote Labour.

If ever there was an open goal for the Tories, this is it. But until now they have for the most part declined to press home their advantage, fearful of attracting the charge of racism, which Mr Brown half unsheathed yesterday, and believing that on this issue they already have the unspoken support of the vast majority of voters.

But surely a policy that has had such transformative effects on some communities, and has been marked by such incompetence and duplicity, cries out for exposure by the Tories. To his credit, Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, did respond to Mr Brown’s speech by saying that bringing immigration under control would be a ‘big job’ for a future Conservative administration.

I hope that in coming weeks Mr Grayling and David Cameron and other Tories will develop these arguments. They must also point out that, to judge by Mr Brown’s speech, the Government does not have any policies likely to curb immigration.

Moreover, not for the first time the Prime Minister has been caught fiddling the figures. In a recent podcast he claimed that statistics showed a steep reduction of 16,000 in the net level of immigration into Britain last year.

Now Mr Brown has been upbraided in surprisingly candid terms by no less a personage than Sir Michael Scholar, chair of the UK Statistics authority, for using two completely different sets of statistics which should not have been compared. As a result, he is likely to have underestimated the net level of immigration by more than 35,000, which means that the figure for 2009 was more than 20,000 higher than for the previous year. Contrary to his boast in yesterday’s speech, there has been no decline at all. a policy characterised by incompetence, dishonesty and chicanery must not be a ‘no go’ area for the Tories.

Of course, they should stress that some immigration since 1997 has benefited the British economy, but the sheer uncontrolled enormity of the process has disquieted many people, including immigrants of longer standing. In some cases indigenous workers have been priced out of the jobs market, in others encouraged to remain on the dole as immigrants have filled low-paid jobs.

The Conservatives must not be frightened of saying as much, and no one with half a brain in his head will take seriously any allegations of racism which New Labour may unleash in order to cover up its record.

The issue is one of accountability. Citizens of whatever colour or background in what is supposed to be a democracy have a right to a say in their country’s future.

If recent trends continue, the population of this already crowded country England – not Britain – could increase by 10 million within 20 years. Even with tighter controls on immigration, a substantial rise is certain.

Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday was that of the oligarch who bends the truth out of a misguided belief that he knows what is best for us. It is the voice of New Labour’s discredited ruling class. If the Tories spare him out of fear of bogus labels which no one any longer takes seriously, they will hardly deserve to be elected.

SOURCE

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