'Desperate' Tories under siege after MP migrant gaffe
A Conservative minister who claimed Britain’s towns were “under siege” from migrants has been criticized by Labour figures who say the language has revealed the “desperation” of Tories hoping to stop voters defecting to UKIP.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Sky News the Tories were “doing what we can to prevent whole towns becoming swamped by migrants.” He added “on the east coast, whole towns feel under siege.”
The comments, intended to highlight desires for a renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU, were met with outcry from the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party, who voiced concerned at the harsh imagery.
— Sid (@red13charlie) October 27, 2014
Shadow Defence Secretary Douglas Alexander said the comments reflected the “desperation of the Conservative Party” not to lose voters to UKIP.
Conservative plans to renegotiate the UK’s membership of the EU are due to be unveiled before Christmas, but Prime Minister David Cameron has already indicated he believes a “red-line” is necessary to cap immigration.
Cameron has previously stated he will put immigration at the forefront of negotiations with the EU, and believes the EU policy on free movement needs to be reconsidered.
UK net migration increased by more than 38 percent to 243,000 in 2013/14, according to official figures published in August, where EU citizens accounted for two-thirds of the growth.
Lib Dem MP Ed Davey has urged politicians to use “responsible” language when debating the issue of immigration, while Labour MP Keith Vaz said Fallon’s comments were “inappropriate, nasty and wrong.”
Use of the term "swamped" by Michael Fallon inappropriate, nasty and wrong. This is what happens when you get an immigration arms race.
— Keith Vaz MP (@Keith_VazMP) October 27, 2014
It has been suggested these comments signify a further decline in the relationship between the UK and the EU.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country “will not tamper with the fundamental principles of free movement in the EU.”
UKIP further criticized Fallon’s language as “intemperate.” Stephen Woolfe, UKIP’s Immigration Spokesperson, likened the observations to the previous “over-the-top” Conservative campaigns to reduce immigration. One such Home Office campaign involved driving poster vans around areas with dense immigrant communities, urging illegal immigrants to “go home.”
Michael Fallon says some towns being "swamped" by immigrants. Let's have the evidence - or is it another right wing Tory pandering to UKIP?
— Nigel Martin (@haghouse) October 26, 2014
The comments come as the Rochester and Strood by-election next month could produce another UKIP victory and gain the party their second elected MP.
Douglas Alexander said that by focusing on defeating UKIP, the Conservatives were neglecting other aspects of the immigration debate.
Yet today, Michael Fallon MP for Sevenoaks claimed British towns were 'swamped' by immigrants. I wonder how he knows?
— Seán Duffy (@seantduffy) October 26, 2014
“The truth is, if you are looking out the back window of your car all the time, you tend to crash the car and right now David Cameron is so fearful of internal challenge on the issue of immigration and external challenge electorally from UKIP that I think he is letting Britain down.”
Fallon’s language has been likened to that of Margaret Thatcher in 1978, who claimed that people feared being “swamped” by immigrants from Pakistan and the Commonwealth.
The MP later publicly apologized for his language, saying he “misspoke” and “could have chosen his words better”.