Tim Farron writes… A liberal win on ‘Go Home’ vans

go home illegal immigrant posterSince I have been President I have worked hard to try and make sure members views are heard in the heart of government.  Banging on ministerial doors to try and make policy after policy better and more liberal.

Over the summer the ‘Go Home’ vans came onto our streets.  At the time I joined Sarah Teather and, oddly, Nigel Farage to oppose them. (Who says politics doesn’t give you strange bedfellows!)

My view was clear both then and now: The vans represented the worst kind of divisive politics and they wouldn’t work.

It is important that our borders are protected and secure, but this policy – driving a van around some of the most diverse communities in London – is not the way to deliver that.

I am delighted that Theresa May looked at the evidence – something that colleagues like Julian Huppert asked her to do – and decided to bin this idea.  She saw that the maximum number of illegal immigrants that went home because of them was the grand total of…one!  Our campaign to scrap the ‘Go Home’ vans has worked. But I don’t think this is a campaign win for just our party, I think it’s a win for the millions of decent people who were outraged at these awful things.

It is time for us to stand up and proudly say that immigration is a blessing.  It is good for our society and our economy.  Our health system, care services and many other parts of our economy would collapse without immigration. We should be proud that we as a party refuse to walk into the trap of the politics of division.

I want to thank all the members who got in touch with me on this issue.  Its down to you that we managed to scrap this divisive, wasteful and pointless idea.

I guess we can chalk this up as Norman Baker’s first ‘liberal win’ in the Home Office.  I look forward to many more and he should know I’ll be supporting him on issues like this every step of the way!

* Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Agriculture and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

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  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Oct '13 - 7:07pm

    OK – I’ll stick my head above the parapet. I think that we can all agree that these vans were, to say the least, not a good idea. I certainly will not mourn their passing. However it has struck me in the comment and response on this issue that there are at least two rather significant points in need of resolution from an LD perspective. First, in opposition this party often criticised a politics that was long on criticism and short on answers. What exactly are LD policies on illegal immigration? OK, I’d like to think the party could offer more than a poster van. I certainly hope the amnesty will be ditched in the forthcoming review, policy should not be a de facto reward for illegality. By all means criticise the poster vans – but it’s not enough to be negative and offer nothing.

    Second, I worry that some seem to have a notion in their heads that the only thing illegal migrants are doing wrong is getting caught. We all have our ideas on who should and should not be granted visas, fair enough. However when it comes to illegal migration there is a problem in need of resolution, not denial. It is not the politics of division to believe in the rule of law on immigration. Similarly it is not enough to simply state, as Mr Farron does, that it is important that our borders are protected with nothing to back that up. For example the recent idea about landlord checks was far from the affront it was made out to be.

    By all means, lets talk about immigration. By all means be provocative in the development of policy. But plain criticism needs depth and that depth comes from proposals that are grounded in evidence and in liberalism. And if that evidence says things that the classic political left or right don’t like then so be it. But let’s have more to this than a polarised, politicised argument.

  • Paul In Twickenham 22nd Oct '13 - 7:52pm

    According to The Guardian only one person responded to the “amnesty” offer and that person responded after reading about the vans… in The Guardian!

    I always assumed that this was not about getting illegal immigrants to go home, but about telling Daily Mail readers that the Tories share their opinion of immigrants. I remember a series of “we’ll find out if you’re illegally claiming benefits” TV ads that Labour ran and equally assumed that they were aimed at assuaging focus-group/C2 opinion rather than actually addressing the issue.

    Isn’t that now the nature of political activity? A stream of vacuous PR gestures – as per Clegg’s confection around free schools.

  • Philip Rolle 22nd Oct '13 - 8:26pm

    Above the parapet here too.

    Busting a gut for those here illegally. But the shameful treatment of the vulnerable ( ATOS, sanctions, lack of treatment options for the mentally ill ) is allowed to continue.

    It doesn’t seem fair somehow.

  • Stephen Donnelly 22nd Oct '13 - 11:48pm

    A win on Go Home Vans, certainly, but balanced by more complete nonsense from the Tories pandering to UKIP and racists by floating a scheme to charge for access to the NHS. So we win one, and lose one.

  • A win would have been no vans in the first place! This looks more like a deal where the Tories get to dogwhistle for a bit, and the lib dems then get to claim moral superiority by putting the dogwhistle away.

    The damage has been done, hard to see that as a win.

    Besides, the immigration bill is still going ahead with Lib Dem votes…

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