Tories 'playing the race card' with call for blitz on travellers

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Indy Politics

The Conservatives were accused last night of "playing the race card" in calling for a new crackdown on travellers "who create havoc and mess wherever they go".

The Conservatives were accused last night of "playing the race card" in calling for a new crackdown on travellers "who create havoc and mess wherever they go".

The call by the Tory environment spokesman Archie Norman came a day after the mass eviction of 500 travellers who had set up camp in an affluent area of Berkshire.

Mr Norman accused the Government of having "dithered and delayed" and said travellers should be subjected to a "can work, must work" guarantee and deprived of income support if they defied eviction orders. He said: "We have listened to many tales of travellers destroying property, intimidating local residents and leaving a trail of destruction. People feel that they are powerless and think the authorities can do nothing to help."

The Berkshire evictions followed a large-scale operation by Thames Valley Police after reports by local residents of a wave of petty crime. The presence of travellers at six sites near Reading prompted 100 complaints to police last weekend.

The furore over travellers is becoming an annual event, as every summer the Gypsy community takes to the roads in an attempt to keep alive ancient traditions. Rachel Morris, co-ordinator of the Traveller Law Residential Unit at Cardiff Law School, said: "Every year there is a reaction and it is manna for politicians who can play the race card without being seen to play the race card because it's travellers. Last year the Home Secretary did the same thing."

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