Willie Rennie and Kirsty Williams challenge Scots and Welsh Tory leaders to disown Theresa May’s “borderline xenophobic” comments

Tim Farron was quick to condemn Theresa May’s speech yesterday, saying that she, not immigrants, were damaging to social cohesion. I think it was one of the most disgraceful speeches we have ever heard from a Home Secretary and, let’s face it, Jack Straw, John Reid and David Blunkett had already ensured that the bar was in the gutter. At the time of writing, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has not yet deigned to challenge her.

We’ve seen over the Summer how the Welsh and Scottish Tory leaders have set themselves apart from the wilder rhetoric coming from senior Conservatives, such as the “swarm” comments of the Prime Minister. Their Liberal Democrat counterparts Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie have challenged them to dissociate themselves from Theresa May’s comments.

Kirsty said:

Andrew Davies must speak out against Theresa May’s outrageous speech or we must assume that he shares her views. He was right last month to call for extra help for refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria, but his position is at odds with the borderline xenophobia we heard from the Home Secretary.

Britain is socially, culturally and economically richer for our outward looking, tolerant approach. Yet this Conservative government is whipping up fear and mistrust.

Willie added:

We need more help to those who need it urgently, not more deportation rules.

We need to attract more of the brightest and best to come to Britain to help make our country stronger, not put up new barriers and demonise immigrants who are already here.

The Home Secretary’s comments fly in the face of everything that experts from business and higher education sectors have said on the dangers of pulling up the drawbridge.

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  • Ruth Davidson was given the opportunity on Radio Scotland to do exactly that and completely ducked the issue with that classic ‘some of my best friends'( or in her case her partner) line. She must have used up all of her faux outrage on Michelle Thomson. I have to say its difficult to hold back from asking the coalition libdems what they expected when they got into bed with the nastiest party in U K politics. They provided the platform from which the tories are launching the most right wing policies this country has ever seen. Will Willie Rennie pursue this racist party with the same vigour as he hounds the SNP? Or perhaps he is big enough to offer to side with SNP in the Scottish parliament to table a motion condemning May and her apologists whether they be in Holyrood or Westminster?

  • Richard Underhill 8th Oct '15 - 12:13pm

    Steve 7th Oct ’15 – 5:49pm Should you distinguish perceived xenophobia from perceived racism?

  • Can I ask why not challenging the subjugation of women or attitude towards gays makes us culturally and socially richer?

  • @Steve – the Liberal Democrats didn’t “get into bed” with anybody. They formed the only mathematically stable coalition government possible, and were able to *put forward LibDem policies*, and curb Tory ones as a result – therefore having much more influence than one could in opposition. (i.e. now).

    They didn’t get every decision right, but one can definitely see what government without a Liberal backbone looks like.

    Willie Rennie is a Scottish Lib Dems. We aren’t going to get anywhere in Scotland without holding the SNP to account. That’s his job.

    As is holding Scottish Tories to account – which is exactly what he’s doing here.

  • Steve Coltman 8th Oct '15 - 3:19pm

    The most extraordinary thing about this post is how few comments it has attracted – just 3 so far. Immigration is a subject this party finds excruciatingly difficult to talk about, but it must, because it is an issue with enormous consequences. I had a post to LDV rejected recently – it concerned the impact of immigration (>300,000 pa net) on housing (<150,000 new homes p.a.) pointing out that immigration consumes a large proportion of the extra housing stock being built. If immigration continues at the current rate it will increase the population of the UK by a further 20-30 million by 2050, that' about 40,000 per constituency on average. I think we need to talk about it.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Oct '15 - 3:52pm

    Well said Steve, but if you link the housing crisis in any way to immigration you get accused of “blaming immigrants”. It’s not blaming immigrants, it’s blaming politicians for having too relaxed borders.

    It’s not just this article either, Tim’s one about the refugee crisis has only received two comments and both are criticising him for over simplistic solutions.

    Maybe there are a bunch of Lib Dems and voters who stay away from this site, but it all adds up to the raison d’être for Liberal Democrats being to change the electoral system and win a minority of votes, rather than make arguments that can win over the majority.

    I made my first comment on Conservative Home yesterday anyway, so I won’t be banging on about my dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democrats too much on here.

  • I’m not sure that >300,000 net is an ongoing trend, there are always ups and downs.

    But If housing needs aren’t meeting demand – then one assumes one very effective solution is to build more houses, and with them the facilities required for a functioning community (schools, shops, medical centres, transport links, etc.).

    There are a huge number of brownfield sites desperate for development, in areas that would benefit from such a resurgence – and one previous Lib Dem policy was to ensure adequate distribution of new migrants where possible, so no community feels overwhelmed.

    We can’t stop EU migration as free movement of labour is key to the EU – but UK citizens benefit from this too. We could stop non-EU migration, but at the expense of the NHS, social care, and other industries that rely on migrant workers. And also at the expense of abdicating our responsibility people from commonwealth nations.

    Immigration has been shown to be economically beneficial, and working-age migrants help to replace the ageing population. So do we really want to stop it?

    Furthermore, anti-immigrant rhetoric is putting off skilled would-be migrants and international students – those bright individuals which subsidise universities by paying huge amounts in fees, and really should be made to feel welcome in a country experiencing a brain-drain.

  • I can only speak for Scotland. We need immigration to help with the very significant problems caused by an ageing population. As regards comments on housing stock all that tells me is we need to build more houses. I am uncomfortable with people linking it to immigration. AM puts it well. And as for Willie Rennie holding the government to account, that is absolutely his job. He needs to start doing it. It is different from political point scoring. Willie Rennie doesn’t seem able to differentiate between the two.

  • “As regards comments on housing stock all that tells me is we need to build more houses. I am uncomfortable with people linking it to immigration.”

    Unfortunately, it is linked, take 7 million people who have no history in the UK predating 1997, out of the equation and then take a look at the development of our current housing stock; I think you will find the ‘problem’ would either not exist or be tiny…

    Now looking forward, given our current housing problem and the existing mismatch between rates of construction and need, then take into consideration the on-going high levels of net immigration (circa 330,000 pa) that show no signs of reducing and may actually increase given the numbers of migrants currently entering Europe, the ONS forecasts for changes within our recent (ie. last 20 years) migrant population (eg. people who were children, who will be looking to leave home in the coming years) and I think you will see that there is a strong connection.

    Additionally, inspite of all the shouting, I’ve not seen any real strategy for achieving the massive increase in house building that some are calling for. About the only practical way we can house all these people is to throw out the planning system, building regulations and consideration for land/property ownership and allow people to build shanty towns wherever they wish…

  • @AM
    “But If housing needs aren’t meeting demand – then one assumes one very effective solution is to build more houses”
    “We could stop non-EU migration, but at the expense of the NHS, social care, and other industries that rely on migrant workers.”

    Surely if the solution to housing is to build more then the solution to the NHS issue would be to train more people who live here already.

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