Farron: Cameron’s “bunch of migrants” comments diminish his office and Britain

On the Belfast Telegraph website, Tim Farron talks about why he feels we should offer sanctuary to the “desperate” children struggling alone through Winter in refugee camps. He also slammed David Cameron’s “bunch of migrants” comments which have had a great deal of coverage this week.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • In complete agreement with the substance of TF’s comments regarding migrants. However, I wish he hadn’t joined the chorus of disapproval over the use of the word “bunch” by D.C.
    Granted, the PM has form on this issue. His previous use of the term “swarm” was not well judged, bringing to mind as it does, irritating insects. Indeed, any collective noun which is usually used to describe animals is obviously not appropriate. But “bunch” ? Since when was “bunch” a pejorative term ? Perhaps someone could suggest the correct term(s) we are allowed to use ?

  • @ John Marriott : a right angle if you lie down first.

  • Shaun Cunningham 29th Jan '16 - 8:51pm

    Tim is making a terrible misjudgment and this party will pay dearly for it. David Cameron’s remarks we’re a political calculation and not a slip of the tongue. I have no problem in helping unaccompanied children and I agree wholeheartedly such children should be helped, however, I do believe this needs careful presentation if we are not to damage the image of the party in the eyes of the electorate. I am continually reminding members our poll rating is approximately 7 % and has been for over a year now. Can I be blunt, we are at 7% because the party is not connected or finding any traction with the public. Why is that? Could it be we are speaking to ourselves and trying to ram our thoughts down the throats of the public without stopping and asking a fundamental question, does the electorate like the medication we are trying deliver. The evidence from the polls is clear. The public are not stupid, they know the difference between genuine refugees and economic migrants and yet the party seems to convey a no difference approach when talking about the two groups, they are effectively one group in the eyes of the party. They are NOT. Such a position is mine boggling. When the public view pictures of economic migrants, mostly young men, creating havoc at the French ports our message that these people need help is simply washed away, but worst still to say we should let such migrants into this country is seen by the quiet majority of the public to be a fool hardly one.

  • Shaun Cunningham 29th Jan '16 - 8:51pm

    No matter what we say or how we present the case for Christian love, the public will interpret pictures of disorder and bad behaviour as they feel fit. I am working hard to try and move the party forward, it is tough because my area is dominantly Conservative, although we do have support when it comes to local elections. I know only too well, one wrong message and all the effort we are putting in will be wasted. It is my opinion, reinforced by doorstep conversations, the party must distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants when presenting the case for genuine refugees or for the case to bring orphaned children to this country, otherwise we will be seen by the public to have an open door policy with regard to economic immigrants who wish to come here. The climate with regard to economic migrants is changing right across Europe, everyone is back tracking and before long the headlines will read ” conservatives were right” once again this party will be shipwrecked. I don’t have to tell anyone, politics is brutal, the party merely needs to look at the result of last May. The party needs to recognise the brutal truth, the public are not in support of a ”Come on In” policy, and some in the party need to understand that…….fast. The party needs to make its mind up, political power or a party of protest

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Jan '16 - 9:14pm

    If Cameron gets a credible sounding deal on immigration his popularity will shoot-up. He might end up a bit like Neville Chamberlain coming back from Europe but saying “no more mass immigration in our time”, but whilst it lasts it will be popular.

    Cameron has prioritised party unity over looking out for the whole country, but yes I agree with Shaun, Lib Dems need to be careful on this. Refugee children fine, but economic migrants en-mass won’t be accepted happily.

  • I never thought I would say this but Cameron is sadly right to focus aid on refugees who stay in the area not encourage desperate people to make dangerous journeys. If we let three thousand children in, it will encourage another three thousand, many of them will die on the journey. It might even encourage parents to send their children on this journey unaccompanied as they will have a better chance of being allowed in to the UK. Don’t get me wrong, I would let all the children in if I could but I don’t want them to die trying to get here. Build proper camps in the Middle East for refugees and let them all be safe there so they can return to their homes when the war is over, and rebuild their homeland.

  • Regarding ” bunch”, it’s not the word but the dismissive way it was used, it comes across as pretty heartless. Cameron reverts to Flashman.

  • @Eddie Sammon
    “Cameron has prioritised party unity over looking out for the whole country”
    I doubt that any politician could come up with a policy that would “look out” for the whole Country, simply because the Country is 60 million individuals.
    His original intent was to provoke a left wing twitter storm, so that those who were not happy with the current situation in the Labour Party might find another reason not to vote for them. I would guess that the people at Conservative HQ will be beside themselves with joy at Farron giving the whole thing extra legs.
    The only surprise is that only one Lib Dem (Shaun) seems to have cottoned on to the ploy – or perhaps everyone else is hiding behind the sofa?

  • Although all the refugees have my sympathy and I would be in favour of letting some of the families with young children into the UK, I realise I maybe in the minority. As to letting unaccompanied children into the UK it is far more complex that Tim Farron would have us believe. Please read the following link to see the massive problems Sweden are having.

  • David Woodbridge 30th Jan '16 - 1:59am

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, the BBC are reporting that “…vulnerable children are being placed in care outside their home county of Kent due to the influx of child asylum seekers”.


    A brief reminder – not that anyone outside of Lib Dem La La Land needs it – that such a policy has real-life consequences for ordinary British people. You know, the ones we might need to vote for us at some point. As Shaun has pointed out, above, such a stance is suicidal.

    I understand that Tim means well and is probably motivated by Christian compassion etc, but that’s no basis on which to formulate policy, particularly when it’s so ill thought-out. Why has no-one at the top suggested that this stance is quietly dropped? While deeply questionable beforehand, continuing to advocate it after the events in Cologne is pure folly.

  • It was a deliberate use of words to make him seem a bit more UKIP in the run up to the EU vote. I don’t know were the Flashman idea of Cameron comes from. He’s not a roguish cavalry officer. He’s a dry as old bones PR man targeting a demographic. He probably sits at home with pie chart of income brackets and the latest data on buzz words.

  • John Roffey 30th Jan '16 - 6:35am

    Glenn 30th Jan ’16 – 5:21am
    “It was a deliberate use of words to make him seem a bit more UKIP in the run up to the EU vote.”

    I would say without doubt. However, although there is also no doubt that he is a calculating ‘PR man’ – I suspect that the ‘pie chart of income brackets and the latest data on buzz words’ are the work of someone else. He just delivers the results in his honed style which is demonstrably effective because he and the Tories have increasingly ‘not a leg to stand on’!

    I would also agree with the comments above that this is not an issue that TF should get too involved with at present – if he hopes to increase the Party’s popularity. There are still too many moving parts to be able to make many categoric statements on how this enormous problem can be resolved. Although I would prefer to see the women and children accepted by the EU – and the men expected to remain in Syria, and elsewhere, to fight for their nation’s future.

  • Peter Davies 30th Jan '16 - 6:45am

    What I found offensive about Cameron’s answer was not the use of the term ‘bunch’ but the fact that he bracketed migrants among the countries enemies to whom Corbyn was happy to make concessions.

  • John Marriott 30th Jan ’16 – 8:42am
    “Let’s be honest, as it presently stands, PMQS should go into the entertainment category.”

    Yes – I don’t believe that Osborne could survive a decent attack on him at present. His financial projections on the deficit are looking almost certain to be proven a nonsense – and much of what he has achieved to date has been achieved by flogging off many of the nation’s assets.

    I really do think that the Party is missing a great opportunity to attack Osborne’s failure to extract a fair rate of tax from the global giants like Google. If this had been done – the austerity program would not have needed to be so severe – and receiving £m’s more tax each year provides for the future – unlike selling assets which usually results in lower income in future years.

    Getting more tax from the multinationals is certainly an issue that is supported by the great majority of the voters – and a vote winner!

  • Richard Underhill 30th Jan '16 - 10:54am

    The language to use is about recognition as a refugee. Recognition by UNHCR in an unsafe country, recognition by a safe country such as France in French jurisdiction, recognition by the UK within the jurisdiction of the UK. If the applicants do not apply for recognition how can they be recognised?

  • suzanne fletcher 30th Jan '16 - 12:45pm

    I’m not going to try to answer everything, but it is Cameron putting all who with to migrate to this country into the same group.
    What Tim Farron is saying in the video is that those children who are separated from their family whilst crossing Europe need to be able to be reunited with their families. Most are not linked to families in the UK, the judge in the case this week said that not a lot of children will be reunited with family in the UK.
    But there is the extra call by Save the Children Fund, Amnesty International, Citizens UK etc for unaccompanied children in Europe to be given a safe home. Lib Dems are backing this. Backing it because it is right, it is humane, and it is part of what we are in the UK. Look at Kindeertransport, Look at taking in Basque children in our history. Exactly what harm has that done anyone ?
    As a party the Lib Dems are not just there to boost our vote (and it is a given that without elected representatives we cannot do much) but stand up for our beliefs and our values. In the longer term that should attract those people with similar values too, making us stronger. I don’t need to refer back too far to think of how the party can be endangered by those who are elected and do not reflect our values.

  • richard winter 30th Jan '16 - 1:28pm

    It would appear that Sweden’s open door policy has created a situation where there are 123 men for every 100 women. Obviously unsustainable and will eventually create tension as always exists when too many chase a resource shortage. I am not sure this is a genie easily put back into the bottle and this type of issue informs wider public opinion.
    On a slightly different tack the ecconomic migrants, as opposed to refugees, at Calais are trying to queue jump rather than wait for the normal immigration process. Tim’s statements should differentiate between refugees and economic migrants and maybe that way the wider public will be more receptive of his compassionate views on the subject.
    Whatever there is a need, as mentioned in an earlier response, to improve apon our 7% showing in the polls and clarifying who is deserving of immediate support and who isn’t.

  • From Richard :
    “Whatever there is a need, as mentioned in an earlier response, to improve upon our 7% showing in the polls and clarifying who is deserving of immediate support and who isn’t.”
    A sensible call for Triage Liberalism perhaps?
    Two other comments here, also both from undoubted liberals, indicate the dilemma you face.
    Suzanne, if she were a stick of rock would have liberal written through her. And voters who [take the trouble to], listen to liberals, hear and recognise that typical message that Suzanne speaks. But whilst they admire the composite liberal desire of, ‘Let’s save everybody’, they also understand in their gut, that this liberal ambition is impractical in a world that is a ‘shrinking pie’, in terms of resources.
    Shaun is also without question a liberal. But Shaun I suspect, recognises the need to review and re-invest liberalism in light of this shrinking pie of resources. We can all agree that in an abundant world, ALL can [and should!], sup from the cup of liberalism. But in a shrinking world, which is the increasing reality for many voters, the reverse is true ; liberalism has limits.
    The voters who are shunning you, see well meaning, but poor lack of judgement and unfeasible policies, that have no real world connection with their life horizons and needs. The dilemma for Liberal Democrats is how to triage your liberalism into a form which voters see as realistic, do-able, and life enhancing for them, rather than some evangelical wish list.?

  • Richard Underhill 30th Jan '16 - 3:39pm

    suzanne fletcher 30th Jan ’16 – 12:45pm So what is the immigration status of the families in the UK? Are they recognised refugees? If so they should be entitled to Family Reunion, under policies predating the Human Rights Act but supported by the Human Rights Act.
    Have they been certified as illegal immigrants or overstayers?
    Have they entered the UK illegally and remained undetected?
    Have they been remanded in prison awaiting trial?
    Have they contacted the International Red Cross?
    Are they entitled to Limited Leave to Enter or Remain as tourists, au pairs, etcetera?
    Obviously there are many more categories than two.

  • Katerina Porter 31st Jan '16 - 6:29pm

    The two separate and different types of migration are being treated very conveniently as one by the right wing press in Britain and elsewhere. There is a flare-up on Cologne but little or no coverage of a Neo Nazi attack in Germany on a 13 year old Tunisian girl at New Year and that last year 222 refugee shelters were burned down there. There is also the legal international obligation to accept refugees. If we took in 1% of our population of 60 million it would be about 600,000, a fair share and surely possible if properly organised and not such a political tool.
    Discussion of the 2,300 migrants from the EU living here and how to treat them does not mention the 2,200 or more UK citizens living in the other EU states. Will they also be deprived of local benefits? Our benefit system is not particularly generous compared to the other richer members and some countries have a longer tradition than ours. Romania for instance set up theirs shortly after the First World War – ours was after the Second. People come here to work. They are more likely to speak English than the languages of other countries where they could go. They also often plan to go back.

  • Katerina says :
    “… but little or no coverage of a Neo Nazi attack in Germany on a 13 year old Tunisian girl at New Year”
    Can you please provide a link, so people can check the validity of your claim ? There is nothing on Google, when you ask [ Neo Nazi attack in Germany on a 13 year old Tunisian girl at New Year ],…..which is……. odd.?

  • David Allen 31st Jan '16 - 6:54pm

    Phyllis: “I never thought I would say this but Cameron is sadly right to focus aid on refugees who stay in the area not encourage desperate people to make dangerous journeys.”

    I understand why you say that, but I am not at all sure that you are right. The refugees from Syria who are coming to Europe now are the minority who can afford the smugglers’ fees. They, when they arrive, present the humanitarian problem Europe needs to deal with. The majority, who go to Turkey or stay in Syria, are the people who can’t afford to try for Europe. If Cameron takes some of those people from the camps, he only adds to Europe’s burdens, and does not help to solve them. Meanwhile Merkel, who has been humane but has overestimated how many refugees her fellow Germans are prepared to accept, faces huge problems. I suspect one of the best things the UK could do would be to offer to lighten Germany’s load. The other would be to pay much more money to support the UN in making the camps in Turkey etc reasonable places to live – an article in today’s Observer (not found online sorry) says the UN need $40bn and aren’t getting it.

  • @David Allen
    “If Cameron takes some of those people from the camps, he only adds to Europe’s burdens, and does not help to solve them.”

    That’s debatable, since Cameron’s approach will remove an incentive for some to take the perilous sea voyages – hopefully (a) reducing Europe’s burden in the long run and (b) reducing the numbers of refugees being drowned.

    It’s unfortunate that the debate over refugees is taking up so much bandwidth, because in a sense it’s a distraction from the much more important issue of how we help those Syrians (the vast majority) who are not young/able/wealthy enough to make their escape. I spend a lot more time worrying about them than I do about the people at Calais.

  • Katerina Porter 31st Jan '16 - 10:44pm

    Indigo –

    London Review of Books 4th February page 9

  • Katerina Porter 31st Jan '16 - 11:10pm

    PS page 9 Short Cuts

  • @Katerina Porter
    I’ve searched for this attack on Spiegel Online and there is no mention of it. There are plenty of articles on the arson attacks (68 not 222) as well as investigations in to the rise of extreme organisations. So I’m not certain where Meaney got that info.

    I would also suggest that all the talk of “Far Right” is misleading, it is something far scarier, it is the merging of far right and left wing groups that is really scary. Spiegel have an interesting article on what is starting to happen (link at the end), it’s quite long so, if you don’t have the time to read the whole thing, I would highlight this single paragraph to point out what may happen (esp the final 2 sentences):

    “The Otto Brenner Stiftung, a foundation with ties to German labor unions, published a study of right-wing populism in Germany over the summer. The organization found that supporters of the New Right no longer clearly identify themselves as right-wing. “The division between traditionally leftist and traditionally rightist attitudes is disappearing,” the study says. “The actors are increasingly positioning themselves outside the classic right-left schemata.” Study author Wolfgang Storz speaks of a “cross-front,” a term that goes back to the Weimar Republic, when young conservative thinkers such as Arthur Moeller van den Bruck were trying to understand how nationalist and socialist ideas might fit together. The effort found success not long thereafter.””


  • Thomas Meaney is the *only* source for that 13 year old Tunisian girl attack. And the rest of Meaney’s writing also has a few other dubious references with no evidence other than his say so.
    I for one do not believe this one, and only one, reference by Thomas Meaney to a supposed ~ Neo Nazi attack in Germany on a 13 year old Tunisian girl at New Year.
    Here is the link for others to read and form their own view.

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