14 May 2013

Former PM attacks Government's UK immigration stance

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Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has used his first speech since leaving office to attack the current coalition Government's stance on UK immigration.

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Former PM Gordon Brown said the current Conservative-led coalition Government was verging on 'Powellite' UK immigration policies.

The Conservative-led coalition Government has struck a harder line on UK immigration than their Labour predecessors, vowing to bring down net migration to the UK to the 'tens of thousands' by the time of the next election.

The unexpected success of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in recent local elections combined with the looming prospect of Bulgaria and Romania acceding to the European Union (EU) and potentially being able to move to Britain without the need for a UK visa has caused some Conservatives' rhetoric to further intensify.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU before holding a referendum on Britain's membership before 2017. Mr Cameron has also said his Government will be looking at introducing controls to limit any potential impact of Bulgarians and Romanians moving to the UK next year.

Mr Brown, making his first speech since being ousted from office in 2010, said this rhetoric was bordering on 'Powellite' - referring to former Conservative minister Enoch Powell's infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech which is widely considered bigoted.

The former PM told an audience of an audience of Labour MPs, MSPs, trade union officials and council leaders the Conservatives' policy on the EU and immigration had become hardened in recent times while their U-turns on other policies did not inspire confidence. Instead, Mr Brown said the Tories had become embroiled in a bitter 'race to the bottom' with the UKIP.

"Where are the positive proposals about the future of the union?" asked Mr Brown.

"The one thing they're alone interested in is our relationship with the EU, driven by UKIP as we know.

"A party which was once pro-Europe is now anti-Europe, a party which was once anti-Powellite on immigration is now becoming very close to being Powellite on that issue."

Mr Brown said the Conservative Party were trying to outflank the UKIP by hardening their own policies to drum up support, something Mr Brown said the Labour Party would not do.

"On almost any issue, you can see the Conservative Party doing U-turns. U-turns on alcohol prices, U-turns to legislate on overseas aid, U-turns on gay marriage.

"I suppose the new term isn't U-turn, it's UKIP-turn. I say to the Conservatives, UKIP if you want to, we're going to stick to what we believe in."

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