Labour MPs and advisers: We failed on immigration
By Paul Goodman
The IPPR seems to have waited until Theresa May's immigration announcement was out of the way before launching a series of essays by senior Labour figures on the last government's record on the matter.
The Guardian published a story yesterday evening based on the essays, and the key quotes are an indictment of both Blair and Brown's record.
Phil Woolas claims that even at party gatherings Labour was scared to talk about one of the biggest concerns among voters, and that by 2010 the party had no credibility left on the issue -
"We had imposed a gag on ourselves...the public thought we were shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted and even worse that we were doing it for electoral gain".
Ed Owen, policy adviser to Jack Straw, Blair's first Home Secretary, admits that -
"...there was no deliberate and substantive work on immigration issues undertaken in opposition – no attempt to develop a coherent strategic position that might serve as a basis for a programme for government. The consequences of this lack of deliberate policy thinking was disastrous as we lurched from one crisis to another."
Matt Cavanagh, a policy adviser in Downing Street on home affairs issues, argues that -
"both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and the great majority of their ministers shared a conviction that immigration for work and study was good for Britain and the British economy...we needed to change our approach and accept that immigration itself was a major issue for voters".
John Denham, the former DCLG Secretary and Home Office Minister, complains that Whitehall never owned the immigration issue, and that Labour confused a tough line on immigration with racism partly due to the exploitation of the issue by the BNP.