Andy McSmith's Sketch: Some will see only the pratfall, but Chris Bryant has got hold of the agenda

Sketch: When attacking an organisation that big, it is not a bad idea to be in command of your facts

Chris Bryant is a brainy fellow. He radiates self assurance. He is just the kind of clever-clever type that people long to see taking a pratfall. Today, and over the weekend, he did. The glee of the commentariat is palpable. By common consent, today was a disaster day for Mr Bryant. How did it happen?

There have been complaints all through the summer that Labour seemed to have nothing to say. The Tories have been everywhere, even sending vans into areas with a high concentration of immigrants to tell those who are here illegally to “go home” – but from Labour, scarcely a word.

Mr Bryant, the shadow immigration minister, decided to put that right by delivering a big speech that disavowed “cheap and nasty” anti-immigrant sentiment and praised the work of great immigrants through the centuries, from Simon de Montfort to Winston Churchill (De Montfort was a controversial figure, and Churchill was not an immigrant, although his mother was – but let’s not get picky). His target audience was precisely the unemployed or struggling Britons who feel crowded out of the jobs market by the incomers.

His message to them was not to blame their plight on people who have come to Britain to work for low wages under grim working conditions, but on the “unscrupulous” firms who hire them.

Bryant alleged that some firms aimed their recruitment ads exclusively at foreign nationals, who had to pay their own way to get to the UK and when they arrived were paid less than the minimum wage. “I’ve seen two-bedroom flats turned into pits for nine men, with a 24-hour rota for the beds,” he said. “I’ve seen fast food outlets with a shack for employees to live in – beds in sheds.” He suggested a few ways to deal with these miscreant firms, such as a mandatory register for landlords, and stricter enforcement of the minimum wage.

That much was sensible enough, but Mr Bryant is too ambitious to settle for “sensible”. Having spent this year and last in combat with Rupert Murdoch’s vast media conglomerate, he could not resist taking a swipe at another commercial giant, by briefing out in advance a version of the speech which contained some unflattering remarks about Tesco.

But when attacking an organisation that big, it is not a bad idea to be in command of your facts. If you must accuse them of undercutting wages at a distribution centre in Kent, for example, it is best to be sure that they have a distribution centre  in Kent.

Mr Bryant broke that basic rule, and first thing this morning, he had to appear on the BBC’s Today programme to correct the comments he had not yet made in a speech he delivered, in revised form, later the same morning.

It was certainly embarrassing, but those who write off the episode as a complete disaster are possibly missing the point.

After weeks of near total silence, the Labour Party burst on to the airwaves today, at the top of the bulletins, talking about immigration and the problems of being British and unemployed. It was not elegantly done, but it was a start.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders