Andy McSmith's Diary: 'Go home' vans not offensive, they just lost their way

Our man in Westminster

Theresa May has had her wrist slapped by the Advertising Standards Authority over those Home Office vans that were sent into racially mixed parts of London to warn illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest."

But it was not that slogan that promoted the ASA to ban the advertisement, despite the huge number of complaints it provoked. Instead, the ASA ruling is aimed at the small print which warned: "106 arrests last week in your area", which they say was misleading.

The appearance of the vans in six London boroughs in July caused an open rift in the coalition, with Nick Clegg saying that they were the wrong way to sell the government's immigration policy and the Home Office minister, Jeremy Browne - who has since been sacked by Clegg for being too close to the Tories- publicly promising that the experiment would not be repeated.

The vans inspired 224 complaints to the ASA. Most complainants considered them to be offensive, as 'go home' is an insulting epithet all too commonly directed at people from ethnic minorities. But the ASA rejected that complaint, saying that the message was aimed clearly at illegal immigrants, not at UK citizens or asylum seekers - though they suggested that it might have been better to put 'return home'.

But they said that the phrase 'in your area' was misleading because anyone seeing it was likely to assume it referred to the immediate locality, when actually the 106 arrests were spread across Barking, Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow. And the words 'last week' actually meant the most recent for which the Home Office had accurate figures, which was three weeks before the vans were out on the streets. This was explained in small print at the bottom of the advertisement, but the ASA ruled that the qualification was not visible enough.

"Although distasteful to some, we've ruled that the Home Office ad wasn't offensive or harmful. But it was misleading," ASA chief executive Guy Parker said.

Better late than never for early election culprit

Spencer Livermore, the adviser who is said to have been reduced to tears by Gordon Brown, is back with the Labour Party, helping to plan the general election campaign. It was Livermore who first suggested that Gordon Brown should call a general election in autumn 2007, in those long gone, short lived days when the nation thought that he was a Prime Minister whom they would happily return to office. Livermore was also one of the first to gauge that the abolition of the 10p tax rate was a time bomb primed to go off at the beginning of the 2008-09 tax year, which was a large part of his reason for advocating a dash to the polls.

The upshot was a public relations catastrophe: Brown's people hyped up expectations of an early poll, only to lose their nerve two weeks later. A frustrated Brown vented his rage brutally on Livermore, who left his job soon afterwards. One reason for his going was that he believed that Damian McBride, the notorious Downing Street spinner, was trashing his reputation.

When The Independent's Steve Richards asked Livermore on whose behalf he believed McBride had been briefing, the reply was "Ed Balls." Ed Balls denies it, but the fact that Livermore believed it should create an interesting atmosphere at Labour headquarters.

Ignore Shapps, he's too on-message

Of all the political slogans trotted out on the day that the party leaders reshuffled their teams, the one that takes the biscuit has to be the utterance from the Conservative Party chairman, Grant Shapps, who described the ministerial musical chairs as "really a reshuffle for hardworking people."

What did that mean? Tom Bradby, Political Editor of ITV News, tried asking David Cameron, during Monday night's political chat show, The Agenda. The Prime Minister replied: "He's so on message that he has to get that phrase in whenever he's talking about it."

That is prime ministerial code for 'ignore him: he's spouting the usual gibberish.'

Cameron is left playing Batch-up

In that same interview with Tom Bradby, David Cameron almost sounded like a man who was the zeitgeist, but then he fluffed it.

Invited to comment on The Fifth Estate, the new film on the Wikileaks affair, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange, the Prime Minister responded enthusiastically: "I watched some of it - brilliant! Benedict Cumberhatch - brilliant!" "Batch," Tom Bradby interposed. "Batch! Batch!" exclaimed the Prime Minister.

Diane ditched

"Being brutally honest, Diane Abbot isn't really a Labour MP. She is in fact leader of the Diane Abbot Ego Party." Thus Mario Dunn, former special adviser to a Labour Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, assessed a newly sacked former shadow health minister.

News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer was final surviving member of seminal punk band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice