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.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker