Vince Cable: “Go home” poster vans “stupid and offensive”

Those of you who have not been willing to take the word of senior Liberal Democrat sources on those notorious poster vans, and have been waiting for a minister to say something will not be disappointed by Vince Cable’s comments on today’s Andrew Marr show:

It’s stupid, as Trevor Phillips said, the idea that illegal immigrants have got a sophisticated grasp of English, read at a distance and I think it is offensive. It is designed, apparently to create a sense of fear within the British population that we have a vast problem with illegal immigration. We have a problem, but it’s not a vast one and it has to be dealt with in a measured way tackling the underlying causes and that’s why I said we’ve got to crack down on employers who are abusing both low pay and immigration.

He asked if there was a row about it within the Coalition. He said:

I certainly wasn’t consulted and I know that my Liberal Democrat colleagues haven’t been…

Would they continue?

It was a problem, it was stupid and offensive and I think it is very unlikely that it will continue.

On immigration generally, he had this to say, which I doubt will please his Conservative colleagues:

Actually it’s quite difficult being an illegal immigrant in Britain. You can’t work, certainly legally, you can’t have access to benefits so the idea that there is some vast hidden army of people is almost certainly completely wrong.

That was before he had a swipe at the Tories’ preoccupation with net migration, which he says is not helpful as students are counted within these figures and their presence is beneficial.

The interview was quite wide ranging. Here are some of the highlights:


We don’t let know if growth is sustainable because it has to go on for some years and it’s got to be of the rigth kind. We can’t repeat the mistakes of the past which eld to the financial crisis. We need to make sure htat the growth is in exports, it’s in business investment and it’s targeted at the long term which is what we are trying to do with our industrial strategy.

There are some good things happening around manufacturing but we have to keep that going for a period of years, innovation, skills training and building procurement within the UK.


I am worried about the danger of getting into another housing bubble. The help to buy scheme is quite complex. We have one part which is already operating which is providing mortgages against new homes.  The proposal which hasn’t yet been implemented which is providing a guarantee on a limited range of mortgage could be a problem, it could inflate the market but if it’s properly designed it could be a useful edition. We mustn’t risk returning to the problems of the last decade.

The real problem is housing supply. The current numbers are hopelessly  inadequate and there is a chronic deficit of social housing…

..As Liberal Democrats at Conference we are going to be arguing that the Government should be doing more through local councils to build more social housing.


We’ve got to have a sensible balance. We want banks to do what banks are supposed to do which is to take people’s savings and channel them into productive investment through SMEs and they’re not doing that. There is a severe credit problem. Our exporters and  manufacturers are struggling to raise credit. There is a tension because we don’t want the banks toppling over again so they  have to be  tightly regulated and the question is to have a sensible balance and not 0ver-react. If I was making a criticism it was of that.


We want to compete on our own merits.

“We will be competing as an independent party and campaigning on our own record, which we are very proud of, equidistant between the other two parties.

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

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  • Vince has put his name to this criticism.

    What I don’t understand is why there seems to have been a deliberate decision not to put an attribution to this criticism. That seems of little sense as people are going to be put in the position as soon as they hit the media

  • nuclear cockroach 28th Jul '13 - 1:11pm

    Thanks, Vince, about time!

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 28th Jul '13 - 4:05pm

    Wise and comforting words by Vince Cable!

  • In my view people are using immigration as a blanket term, and it’s this that makes it easy for politicians to manipulate prejudices into vote winners 🙁 the conversation needs to be much more specific, and if people feel that they don’t understand it any more, well let them think they don’t understand it!

  • You’ve tagged this as “Vince Czable” – presumeably this is Vince’s Polish alter-ego?

  • Helen Tedcastle 28th Jul '13 - 8:41pm

    Wisdom from Vince Cable.

  • Stephen Donnelly 28th Jul '13 - 9:23pm

    Geoffrey Payne : Exactly. How can this be done in the name of a government of which we are part. I have supported the idea of the coalition from day one, but I cannot support the ‘go home’ poster vans.

  • “Those of you who have not been willing to take the word of senior Liberal Democrat sources on those notorious poster vans, and have been waiting for a minister to say something …”

    Crikey, talk about missing the point!

  • “Those of you who have not been willing to take the word of senior Liberal Democrat sources on those notorious poster vans, and have been waiting for a minister to say something”

    Don’t be silly Caron. What I’ve been asking for is the party to be a bit full on and proactive about it. You don’t do that by only giving an unatrributable quote to a partisan party website and hope somebody picks up on it.

    As of now there is nothing on the party website, party twitter or party facebook page saying anything about this. They haven’t retweeted Tims comment, or something about Vince’s comment on the BBC this morning. On what planet is this a good press strategy?

  • nuclear cockroach 28th Jul '13 - 11:45pm


    Re: ““Those of you who have not been willing to take the word of senior Liberal Democrat sources…”

    What Hywel said – with big brass knobs on. Blimey, Caron, does it need saying?

  • I do not care about what a lib dem minister says. I care that that the lib dems in govt stop this. It is a clear attempt to frighten people in minority groups. I voted lib dem but not to do this. They mean nothing in the government if this continues, the most anti liberal policy I have ever known in this country. If you haven’t seen what the lib dem/Tory government have ordered to be driven around mixed race areas, and only mixed race areas, google it. I hope and believe you will be shocked

  • I don’t understand the apparent impotence of Liberal Democrat ministers to prevent the Home Office, in which they have Ministers, of doing something they say they find so objectionable.

    Also, why is Cable the only minister to object?

  • Great job Vince – excellent as always.

  • Apparently Nick did speak out about this earlier in the week. We just didn’t, you know, actually tell anyone!

    I am reminded of Baldrick’s plan to avoid execution by doing nothing until his head was actually cut off.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Jul '13 - 12:46pm

    I have said myself that the comms on this have not been up to scratch. For a start, they should have been all over this on Monday night, not Wednesday afternoon and I agree that there should have been more proactive stuff.

    I am not so sure that this is entirely unusual for party comms, though – there are quite often things that you think should be on party website and Twitter.

    It’s important that lessons are learned from this, but can we please try and be a bit more constructive.

  • Caron

    If you’re pleading with people to be constructive, it would probably be better not to start your articles with snide remarks about people “not been willing to take the word of senior Liberal Democrat sources”. As you acknowledge yourself, the party’s communications have been lacking. The rest of us have just as much right to draw our conclusions and comment as you do.

  • It seems the Prime Minister wants this policy rolled out nationwide:

    The only way this will happen is if Lib Dem ministers approve it, tacitly or otherwise.

    Be interesting to see what happens…

  • Hywel, it wouldn’t have made any difference if every Lib Dem MP had issued a statement condemning this move earlier in the week. It would have been completely ignored by most of the news media who were preoccupied with the staggering news that a woman, known to be pregnant, had given birth to a baby.

    This is clearly a PR exercise aimed at convincing people that the government are doing something about immigration. It is using public money to support the Tories in their battle with UKIP.

  • Nicks comments are a little worrying and not as forthright as Vince/Tim etc:
    Mr Clegg said: “Unless there is overwhelming evidence that this is a really effective way of bolstering public confidence in the immigration system and bearing down on illegal behaviour in the immigration system, I’m going to need a lot of persuasion.
    “What are we going to have next? Home Office vans driving around saying, ‘Please don’t shoplift,’ or, ‘Please don’t steal this car,’?”

    “I don’t happen to think that having a couple of vans driving around north London is the way of actually inspiring public confidence that we have an immigration system that is working properly.
    “Tone is important. I think you can enforce the law effectively without instilling a tone which is unsettling to communities, particularly to mixed communities.
    “What I want to see the Home Office concentrate on instead is making sure that we have a simple system, that’s done in many other countries, where you count people in and you count people out.”
    He added: “I said to the Home Office in very clear terms, I was talking to the immigration minister yesterday – he’s a very good guy, by the way, Mark Harper – I was saying the effort that should be spent is not on vans drifting around north London but on actually reinstating exit checks.”

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