Gordon Brown’s intervention in the EU referendum debate was meant to be all about putting forward the positive case for voting ‘Remain’. But not for the first time, the former Prime Minister appears to have fallen flat on his face over immigration.
It wasn’t quite as bad as Brown’s Gillian Duffy moment in that he didn’t call anyone ‘bigoted’ for holding a view on migration. Instead, though, the message to those worried about migration was…you’re worrying about the wrong thing. Brown told John Humphrys on Today that: ‘The biggest problem is illegal immigration.’ So the essence of Brown’s message was not to speak to the many Labour voters who genuinely are worried about migration and the consequences of free movement which come about from the UK being a member of the EU.
So what was his answer to Humphrys question about keeping down levels of migration? Put simply, it was to pretend the question hadn’t been asked. For many, this will sum up the reason why the Labour party is just not going to be able to persuade its supporters to back ‘Remain’. Brown spoke briefly of EU cash being used in the form of a ‘solidarity’ fund for areas overwhelmed by migrants. But whilst this does do something to address the possible effects of this issue, it does nothing to deal with the cause of the free movement of people in Europe.
And by not answering that question, Brown is attempting to persuade voters to support ‘Remain’ without addressing the elephant in the room. Instead, the former PM suggested, migration was just an obsession of the BBC, calling it the corporation’s ‘agenda’. It seems that whilst Brown might have apologised for his run-in with Gillian Duffy, he’s learnt nothing from the encounter.