Coffee House

In areas of weakness, Labour can only complain that the government isn’t tough enough

22 October 2013

22 October 2013

Much of the coverage of today’s Immigration Bill has centred around those controversial ‘go home’ vans, now ditched because they only sent one person home. Theresa May told the Commons this afternoon that ‘we won’t be rolling out the vans, they were too much of a blunt instrument’. In response to a question from Keith Vaz, she said:

‘What I said to the right honourable gentleman is I didn’t have a flash of blinding light one day and walk into the Home Office and say, I know, why don’t we do this?’ What I have done is looked at the interim evaluation in relation to the vans. There were some results achieved, but I think politicians should be willing to step up to the plate and say when they think that something hasn’t actually been as good an idea, and I think they were too blunt an instrument, but I think that we should also be absolutely clear about what used to happen under the last government. Under the last government if someone came to the end of their visa, nobody got in touch with them to say that they should no longer be staying here in the UK that is now happening as a result of the changes of the immigration enforcement.’

There’s nothing wrong with tackling illegal immigration: many on the left managed to conflate immigration and illegal immigration in their responses to those vans this summer, when the latter does nothing for those involved in the former and is, as today’s debate in the Commons highlighted, linked closely with modern day slavery. But the vans were not a particularly savvy way of doing this because they provoked a debate about language and memories of a less tolerant time, when they didn’t need to. Had the words ‘go home’ been absent from those posters, they would likely have roused little attention, and if they had, it would have been much easier for ministers to argue that the job of the Home Office is to enforce immigration law.

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But this is a debate that has been rehearsed rather a lot in the past few months. What is more interesting is that in spite of what we can now probably dismiss as a comms failure on the part of the Tories, Labour is still on the back foot over immigration. So much so that Yvette Cooper gave a long speech in the Chamber this afternoon about all the things that were wrong with this bill which concluded with this:

‘We will set out amendments giving councils powers of enforcement on the minimum wage, tackling irresponsible agencies, and I hope that the government will support these measures. Mr Speaker this Bill doesn’t do what it claims, some of the measures are sensible, some confused, some of serious concern. It claims to tackle illegal immigration but does nothing of the sort and fails to tackle serious problems. We will not oppose this Bill today as we believe that it should go through to committee stage so we can amend and reform it and use this opportunity to introduce fairer better controls, to deal with this government’s failures and to make immigration work for all.’

So that’s Labour realising that it cannot oppose what is being sold as The Toughest Immigration Bill Ever (although sadly May didn’t play dramatic music or speak in a special deep film trailer voice when introducing its second reading in the Commons this afternoon), because to oppose would mean that Labour isn’t interested in being tough on immigration. This was roughly the position that Labour ended up with on welfare before Ed Miliband sent Liam Byrne packing: Byrne was saying that the benefit cap wasn’t watertight or tough enough, having previously opposed it at various stages. Rachel Reeves took up that mantle by promising that Labour would be tougher than the Tories on benefits.

The difference now is that Cooper has decided on a critical position from the very beginning, and is pushing for the government to support Labour’s ‘tougher’ amendments in an attempt to beat the Tories at their game. Which shows that this is another area where Labour has lost authority: the party feels it has to out-tough its opponents, rather than trying to sell its own beliefs to voters.

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Show comments
  • Pier66

    There’s nothing wrong with tackling illegal immigration: many on the left managed to conflate immigration and illegal immigration in their responses to those vans this summer!
    So there is not wrong with Mrs. May
    Tory join UKIP next GE 2015
    and wel’ll kick them all out UK!

  • anneallan

    How many illegal immigrants can read English?

  • London Calling

    Those Go Home vans were repugnant and not how we do it in a Democracy…There are surer ways of tackling illegal immigration, currently a needle in a haystack to tackle the problem……..Agreed Labour want to appear tougher. they had 13 years and did nothing to stem the influx of now appearing to look tougher is based on weak policies, not new ideas………….

    • Holly

      They DO have new ideas though…
      Tories leading in polls on immigration, welfare,Europe…
      Let’s out ‘right’ them.
      The only problem is the Labour backbenchers, who do not seem to know the difference between an illegal/legal immigrant, or an asylum seeker, they just lump them all together for some unknown reason.
      They have several ‘ideas’ but no policies.
      People like me will just throw their past record while in government back in their faces, because if it wasn’t for their screw ups we would not be having this chat.

    • wilfulsprite

      But surely there is a case for giving those who are not overstayers, but people who snuck into Britain without any papers, a way to leave if that’s what they would like to do. There is no point in criminalising such people – just help them out of the door.
      Where can they go right now for such assistance?

  • Agrippina

    The vans should have stayed they sent a clear message that illegality won’t be tolerated. It should have been backed up with action, the mob on Park Lane picked up finger printed and returned. When they sought to return, stopped at the border. Put more guards on at UKBA and actually check who is coming in and stop the criminals and returnees. Instead of rhetoric and little or no action.

    MEP’s in EU-Parliament, should be asking Rom & Bulg govts why their folks do not have adequate housing, education, health services etc ? Where have the monies already received from EU been spent. If as is clear, no infrastructure projects to benefit their citizens, no joining up as full members Jan 2014-delayed for 1yr and reviewed thereafter.

    If these actions are not taken they will turn up, it is possible to stop them and embarrass those useless govts into doing something. We do not want anymore of their citizens here, we have already paid for them via EU funds.

  • Smithersjones2013

    So that’s Labour realising that it cannot oppose what is being sold as The Toughest Immigration Bill Ever

    With an enormous Brussels black hole bored right through the middle of it this like previous bills is a non entity. Its yet another bill tinkering at the fringes and basically further enforcing things that should already be done.

    Add to that most absurd way of calculating net migration they could have concocted..(a survey with an enormous margin of error that means current claims that net migration is falling could be totally false)

    It’s risible

    Of course Labour can’t do anything much else. There are only so many fringes that can be tinkered with and they like the Coalition have no intention of dealing with the biggest problem,. The EU

    Until the establishment parties stop prostrating themselves at the altar of Brussels there is always going to be a problem! Simply put the government do not have control of our borders and that is a dereliction of duty.

  • Harold Angryperson

    Yvette Cooper – the poor man’s Shirley Williams.

    • neotelemachus

      Or even Kenneth Williams?

      • Andy

        He was better looking.

  • CharlietheChump

    Pointless post , we already know Labour is a policy-free zone (or, in the case of the “electrifying” energy promise, downright stupid).

  • Russell

    A glance at labours front bench, seeing Mr & Mrs Balls, Mr & Mrs Dromey, The Eagle sister with her sister behind her, The Vaz’s and on and on tells people everything they need to know about labour.
    On immigration matters the government Minister should make a statement and the entire government side of the commons should walk out (as labour have nothing to say of any worth and would not be believed anyway). Same treatment on Health matters, Welfare, Justice, the EU, the Armed Forces, Local government etc. etc.
    Leave labour talking to themselves.

  • Andy

    Do wish Labour would damn well shut up: they created the problem in the first place.

    Labour were all for immigration and all for stuffing the poor, which is what uncontrolled mass immigration has done by driving down wages.

  • Chris lancashire

    Cooper is adopting a totally unrealistic and unbelievable position; does anyone (including themselves) really believe that Labour would be tough on immigration? Their record on this issue for 13 years will not be quickly forgotten.

    • telemachus

      Why on earth should Labour be tough on immigration?

      Curbing EU immigration could cost UK £60 billion in lost GDP by 2050 and drive up national debt.

      An EU exit or tighter measures to control EU immigration will restrict economic growth and worsen the UK’s public finances, a new report from Harvey Nash and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) shows.

      Tighter immigration controls will result in a loss of 2 per cent from GDP by 2050, £60billion in real terms. And without migrants from the EU helping to off-set the UK’s ageing population, government borrowing would be 0.5% higher.

      According to the report migrant workers are more likely to be in work (63.3 per cent) than UK-born citizens (56.2 per cent) and more economically active – 69.8 per cent of non-UK EU immigrants compared to 63 per cent of UK-born citizens.

      • telemachus


        UK businesses rely on a significant number of EU immigrant workers. Between 2003-2013, the number of non-UK EU-born citizens in employment in the UK more than doubled from 762,000 to 1,647,000. Immigrant EU workers play important roles in several UK sectors. In the financial and business services sectors, non-UK EU-born citizens make up 6.4 per cent of the total workforce while in the manufacturing sector they make up 6.7 per cent.

        Those migrants from the established EU 14 countries* are more likely to be in higher managerial or professional occupations and they also earn 7.6% (£2,035) on average more than UK workers. This means that on average they are more productive than their UK counterparts and indicates they play a significant role in the UK economy.

        • neotelemachus

          Cut ‘n pate from a CEBR report pushed by that right-on PR parasitical leech CHAPR. Dodgy numbers put out by those who have a vested interest in keeping the Labtard flag flying. It’s a load of bollocks.

        • Holly

          So IF what you say is correct, there MUST have been a pretty decent tax grab for Bozo/Balls to spend on…erm…
          building houses, better health care,(that did not kill off the indigenous Brits) and better trained teachers in all the new shiny PFI contract schools…..
          Oops……Looks like Labour missed a trick there matey.
          Complete disaster for all concerned.
          Coop reckons that Labour support the bill? Well she needs to tell a few of her backbenchers, because some of the speeches today were disgusting.

          She should tell Lammy that an ILLEGAL immigrant from ANYWHERE in the world should be deported.
          He seems to be confusing them with asylum seekers & legal immigrants.
          Tut, Tut Mr Lammy.
          Transparent Labour bods the public can see right through.
          Not fit to sit in Parliament!

          • telemachus

            What I say is true
            Those who for petty racial reasons wish to limit migrants are doing my children a grave disservice

            • Holly

              So why has Coop decided to go so far to the right?

              Whatever happened to the ‘evil’ Tories and their ‘draconian’ policies?
              Soon changed her tune when she sees the public hate what Labour did, but she has left it too late for it to look genuine.
              And the voter hearing her now KNOW she is a FAKE!

        • McQueue

          Which source are you referring to here, and what is the scope for your 7.6% premium quote?

      • Smithersjones2013

        According to the report migrant workers are more likely to be in work (63.3 per cent) than UK-born citizens (56.2 per cent) and more economically active – 69.8 per cent of non-UK EU immigrants compared to 63 per cent of UK-born citizens.

        Yeah go figure. We don’t let immigrants who are disabled, old or indigent into this country in anywhere near the same proportion as are apparent in the indigenous population at large. We have a selective immigration policy. Go figure….

        Next you will be telling us there are more smart people at Oxford University than at your local sink estate comprehensive

        Peddling such statistics in such a manner is dishonest to the point of being racist. If you tried to prove Caucasian superiority using the same statistics you would be slaughtered!

        • telemachus

          A noble criticism
          But stupid
          Does not matter how you analyse it, immigration is good for the economy. Mebbe the excess of fit folk will produce excess GDP to help the indigenous disabled
          WE will make a socialist of you yet

          • Smithersjones2013

            Its not stupid you moron. Its reality,…..

            • telemachus

              Real but beneficial

              • Colonel Mustard

                Only in your polarised world. In the real world there is beneficial immigration and non-beneficial immigration. Trying to balance one against the other to justify the side of the fence you sit on is pointless.

          • Wessex Man

            Where would we be without the 50% of the prison population they provide us with, all those prison guards out of work, not to mention the probation officers.

            Where would our terrorists operations be without them as well you fools, is telemachus the only one thinking of these problems? you should ber ashamed!!!!!!!!!!!

            • telemachus

              The 7/7 bombers were born here

              • Wessex Man

                and you perfectly make my point for me thank you, we have a fine export business of terrorists!

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  There’s a thought… suicide bombers as an export business. I might break my rule and recommend government subsidies for such a business. Ideally, the export market served would be some remote island somewhere.

      • Chris lancashire

        Whether you are right or wrong (and I believe you are wrong) the Great British Public do not believe that untrammelled immigration is a sensible thing.

        • telemachus

          They also in a majority believe in hanging
          We need to lead
          Gut reaction reacts against change which includes the fresh ideas and energy brought in by the immigrants
          Later we perceive the benefit
          Boudicca was anti immigration but the benefits brought by Claudius were immense

          • Chris lancashire

            Fortunately Churchill was anti-immigration preventing fascism in England.

          • McQueue

            Us natives generally disagree, and see little benefit from foreigners and the oft mooted but hard to identify excess of “fresh ideas and energy” when compared to our own people, who also have plenty of “fresh ideas and energy”. You’re spouting hearsay.

            • telemachus

              I refer you to the objective study quoted above
              You reiterate common prejudice

              • McQueue

                We have a say in whether we want our homeland swamped with unproductive foreigners, and your figures, from “the objective study” are paper thin nonsense, plain BS baffles minds propaganda.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Laughable. I think the government could have been much tougher on the genocidal criminals who usurped their power to bring us “rubbing the right’s nose in diversity”. They should be in the dock for what their legacy will mean to those children of yours, you idiot.

      • McQueue

        These figures are effectively nonsense – Re Contribution to GDP, they are based on assumptions / forecasts relating to productivity per capita that exclude changes to productivity, external shocks to demand and long term changes in demand – they are just inflationary make believe, demonstrating that if you ask the wrong questions and make the wrong assumptions you will obtain the wrong answer.

        Re economic activity, the migrant demographic lacks the elderly and to some extent the young – again, specious data to create a specious and entirely wrong argument.

        Now to look at where we are, you postulate immigration is an economic panacea (ignoring the social and actual cost to the indigenous population), so having had such unprecedented immigration for the past 15 years, how come things are clearly getting drastically worse for the people of this country – could it be that uncontrolled immigration actually results in overcompetition for limited work leading to deflationary pressure on income and the GDP per capita of the lower deciles, whilst at the same time ramping costs for government services to top up wages (we didn’t used to need tax credits), educate their non-english speaking young (damaging the education of the native english speakers), provide health care for their imported elderly (along with “pension credit”) and provide housing (further inflating asset values and increasing neo-feudal rent economics), whilst inflating the costs of day to day life for the people whose ancestors called this their homeland.

        Your idiot perversion of statistics says we should be in increasing prosperity, yet the future has never looked worse and we are surrounded by foreigners in our now overcrowded land – you could not be more wrong or more mendacious in your faux economic argument.

        Remember how through the noughties Diane Abbott would always quote Immigrants as more productive than the indigenous, until the data was assessed and it was determined they were less productive, however if one considered the cost of their education not being on their balance sheet they looked better – but actually their GDP per capita was lower, making them a net drag on the UK Economy.

        Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer.

        • telemachus

          For those without the patience to read all your diatribe I quote

          Your idiot perversion of statistics says we should be in increasing prosperity, yet the future has never looked worse and we are surrounded by foreigners in our now overcrowded land – you could not be more wrong or more mendacious in your faux economic argument.

          We need to be dragged from the recession triggered by Lehman and aggravated by Osborne
          For this we need energy and ideas only partly available in the country hitherto

          • Wessex Man

            if you weren’t so sad you’d be danerous.

          • McQueue

            NO, actually – the financial crash has had a terrible effect on certain things, but it is not the reason this country now suffers from underemployment and youth unemployment has suddenly gone through the roof – the reason our workforce is part-time has much more to do with the tax credit system subsidising part-time work, which is also what makes it worthwhile for all the foreign car washers and big issue sellers that declare themselves self-employed.

            Re the financial services sector paying foreign nationals higher than the domestic proportion of that workforce segment, for that specific industry it is the top end of the workforce that is internationally mobile, hence the slight skew in comparative earnings – obvious really, to anyone interested in the objective truth, but as I say, you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong, or deliberately misleading, answers.

            Immigrants contribute net zero – the benefits they bring are outweighed by the contingent and actual liabilities – taken as a whole, the data indicates they are slightly less productive than the indigenous people, and that the only gain is in favour of the migrant….. and it does have severe negative repercussions for the settled people.

      • TruthBeatsLies

        Don’t confuse EU immigration of fellow-Europeans, with the illegal immigration of unwanted 3rd-Worlders from Bongo-BongoLand…!!!

        The two things are very, very different!

    • Mynydd

      It is a long established practice to vote through the second reading of a bill, then introduce serious amendments during the committee stage. Yvette Copper did not invent this. One should wait until the conclusion of the committee stage before commenting on Labour’s position.

      • Chris lancashire

        Why should I wait? Cooper is already mouthing off, I think it is fine to comment now on her position.

  • neotelemachus

    Why would Labtard think that the useless Cooper is up to opposing the redoubtable May? Talk about sending a ladyboy to do a man’s work!

    • HookesLaw

      Labours notion to restrict immigration is to up the minimum wage.

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