Vince Cable likens Conservative 'panic' over immigration to Enoch Powell's notorious 'rivers of blood' speech

 

Coalition tensions boiled over as the Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister Vince Cable likened Conservative “panic” about Romanian and Bulgarian migration to Enoch Powell’s notorious “rivers of blood” speech.

With less than a fortnight to go until the scrapping of controls over workers from the two countries coming to Britain, the Government’s unity on the issue was stretched close to breaking-point.

Following a series of last-minute measures by David Cameron to deter “benefit tourists”, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted he would block any additional moves to limit migration levels from the European Union.

And Mr Cable mounted a scathing attack on the Conservative attitude to migration, accusing the party of a “panic” on the subject because it was under pressure from the UK Independence Party (Ukip).

The Business Secretary invoked the memory of the 1968 speech in which Powell provoked uproar when he inveighed against levels of non-white migration, an episode which still haunts the Conservative Party nearly half a century later.

“We periodically get these immigration panics in the UK. I remember going back to Enoch Powell and ‘rivers of blood’ and all that. If you go back a century it was panics over Jewish immigrants coming from Eastern Europe,” Mr Cable told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.

“The responsibility of politicians in this situation when people are getting anxious is to try to reassure them and give the facts, not panic and resort to populist measures that do harm.”

Mr Cable dismissed claims that tens of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians would head to Britain next month.

He also delivered a withering verdict on leaked proposals from Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to impose a 75,000 cap on the number of EU nationals allowed to work in Britain each year and warned that a clampdown on student visas would harm foreign relations.

He said an annual limit would be “illegal and impossible to implement” and added: “I think what is happening here [is] the Conservatives are in a bit of a panic because of Ukip reacting in the way they are.

“It’s not going to help them, I think, politically, but it’s doing a great deal of damage.”

Asked if there was a crisis within the Coalition on the subject, Mr Cable replied: “There is quite a lot of tension around this issue.”

In an article on Sunday, Mr Clegg described immigration as “the biggest dividing-line in politics today” and dismissed plans for a cap as arbitrary and pointless.

“Sticking a big no-entry sign on the cliffs of Dover may be politically popular, but at a huge economic cost,” he wrote in the Sunday Times. “What would happen if tonight every European living in the UK boarded a ship or plane and went home?”

Mr Cameron has rushed in several initiatives for clamping down on benefit claims by EU nationals, including a three-month delay before they qualify for state support, as well as plans to deport rough-sleepers and impose a 12-month ban on their return. He has also threatened to veto the admission of new EU members unless new restrictions are imposed on freedom of movement in Europe.

His moves come as feelings run high in Conservative ranks about the lifting of transitional border controls on Romanians and Bulgarians on January 1. More than 70 MPs have called on the Prime Minister to defy EU law and retain the controls for another five years.

In response to Mr Cable’s comments, a Downing Street source said: “Vince is member of the government and supports government policy. The words he chooses to do that are up to him.”

He said the Prime Minister was determined to “put in place more robust transitional controls in future and, in the meantime, to make sure people can come here to work but not just to claim benefits”.

Rosen Plevneliev, the Bulgarian president, on Sunday criticised the fear tactics being used by some politicians and warned the UK could appear isolationist as a result. He said: “Isolating Great Britain and damaging Britain’s reputation is not the right history to write.

Mr Cable took two further swipes at the Conservatives in his interview on Sunday. He warned that the Help to Buy scheme, championed by George Osborne as a way of boosting the housing market, need to be reconsidered.

He also said he was “concerned about the social fabric” of the country if spending cuts continue and the gap between rich and poor widens further.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015