Plain talking, team Clegg's good call and social workers' status update

Anna Soubry's short speech on Question Time was one of the best I've heard from any politician on immigration

Share

In case you didn't catch new Defence Minister Anna Soubry's take-down of Nigel Farage on Question Time, it was magnificent. Soubry has been an MP for just three years, and a minister for a little over a year, but has managed to amass a cult following for her straight-talking, no-nonsense and unorthodox views. Some of them are a bit iffy – saying you can spot a poor person because they are often fat, for example (although she was right to highlight the link between obesity and low incomes). But her Soubryisms have a way of refreshing the stale political narrative. In the rows over whether MPs should have outside jobs, or, the flipside, Westminster being dominated by career politicians, Soubry can distinguish herself by having had two careers, as a television presenter and a barrister, before becoming Conservative MP for Broxtowe in 2010.

On Question Time on Thursday, she fluffed the question of whether supply ships for the British Navy were being built in South Korea, saying "I don't know" – such rare point-blank honesty in a minister. But so insouciant is Soubry that she surfed this blunder, letting it crash behind her. On she went, paddling the swell that was immigration and Nigel Farage. Soubry accused the Ukip leader of "scaremongering" over the scale of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria expected to come into Britain next year, saying a Ukip leaflet distributed in her (highly marginal) constituency claimed 29 million would arrive – hogwash, she said, given that the population of both eastern European countries together is 27.5 million.

Soubry said: "I don't like your tone, Mr Farage. You do not talk facts. You talk prejudice. You scaremonger and you put fear in people's hearts. Look, times are tough. We know that. But when times are tough, there's a danger and history tells us when things are not good, you turn to the stranger and you blame them. And you shouldn't. That is wrong. And I'm proud of our country's history and I'm proud that people come here."

This short speech was one of the best I've heard from any politician on immigration. Because, while parties should be aware of the scale of the concern among voters about this issue, they shouldn't respond by hitting back with tough policies that isolate and victimise migrants – such as the "Go Home" vans that Soubry's government was responsible for over the summer. And Soubry has a point about the dangers of blaming strangers for economic troubles.

Some of the recent coverage about the Roma, both in Europe and in the UK, was chilling, particularly if you replaced the word "Roma" with "Jew". It is 75 years this weekend since Kristallnacht, when Jewish businesses and synagogues in Germany and Austria were attacked, but anti-Semitism still lurks in Europe. It is present on social media, but also in the real world. To be clear, I am not accusing the Ukip leadership of anti-Semitism (although some of their activists have been expelled for holding such views), but, as Soubry says, the stranger-blaming obsession has a dark history.

Soubry is not the only Conservative happy to defend immigration – London Mayor Boris Johnson makes an impassioned case for how the hard work of migrants has made London the city it is today. But with Lynton Crosby advising David Cameron for the 2015 election, we can expect the Conservative campaign to have a robust core-vote strategy on immigration.

Yes, parties have to be realistic about this issue. But trying to outdo Ukip is not going to win the Tories a majority – going for the core vote didn't work in 2005 or 2010. A bit more of Soubry's centre-ground common sense would be welcome, and might work at the ballot box.

Oh, and you may have noticed I have barely dwelled on the fact that Soubry is a woman. Isn't it marvellous that I haven't needed to? Soubry is magnificent, full stop. It's just a bonus that she is female.

Trial by telephone

Another woman whose success is based on her record, not her gender, is Emma Gilpin-Jacobs, who has joined Nick Clegg as director of communications from the Financial Times, where she was PR director. Her background is reputation building and crisis management – very handy when you're trying to bolster a leader of a party which faces an all-or-nothing existence after 2015: a hung Parliament will keep the Liberal Democrats in government for a decade, any other result and they are likely to be squeezed into insignificance.

It is understandable, then, that Clegg wants to build a strong empire. But, actually, the best PR decision the DPM's team made was for him to do the weekly Call Clegg on London radio station LBC – he gets a hard time, but, by the election, he will be more used to processing the anger of voters than Cameron or Ed Miliband.

Nothing to see here

Last week I wrote about the striking similarities between tweets from the controversial "official troll" account @toryeducation and the essay by Michael Gove's special adviser, Dominic Cummings, which had not been published when the tweets were written.

Other tweets from @toryeducation have been in breach of section 6 of the special advisers' code, which says "spads" must not engage in personal attacks. Strangely, the Department for Education insists the identical lines from @toryeducation and Cummings' magnum opus are not grounds for an investigation, telling me: "We have nothing to add to our previous comments on this matter" – which were that they were not going to investigate.

It's a tough job...

This newspaper has championed the creation of Frontline, a version of Teach First for social work where graduates are fast-tracked into this difficult sector to help boost its reputation. Thousands of people have applied, but only the best 100 will start the first course next summer.

Frontline recognises that being academic does not equate to being a good social worker, so candidates undergo a rigorous selection process to see if they can understand and talk to children and stand up to, for example, parents who are trying to cover up abuse of their child. Now Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have come together in rare cross-party collaboration to contribute to a recruitment video for Frontline.

As the Prime Minister says, these candidates can "be the difference that makes a difference".

twitter.com/@janemerrick23

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Water Jetting / HGV Driver - Industrial Services

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Skilled Labouring staff with id...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Executive - OTE £30,000

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Salary: £16k - £20k Dependant o...

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist two partner firm o...

Recruitment Genius: HGV Drivers - Class 1 and 2 - Excellent Pay and Benefits

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Class 1 and 2 HGV Drivers are r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Daily catch-up: the gap between rich and poor has narrowed (a little) since the banking crisis

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot