Ken Clarke: Tory party has become 'mildly anti-immigrant'

Posted On: 
31st January 2017

Conservative grandee Ken Clarke attacked his own party today - saying its "mildly anti-immigrant" transformation would have shocked Enoch Powell.

Ken Clarke was addressing the Commons during the first stage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Credit: 
PA Images

The Tory ex-chancellor said the turn towards euroscepticism within his party would surprise even the controversial former MP, famed for his anti-immigration “rivers of blood” speech.

Mr Clarke said Mr Powell, who was expelled from the party in the 1970s, would find the party’s change of course “amazing” were he still alive.

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He spoke out as MPs debated for the first time the Government's Article 50 bill to trigger Brexit.

Branding Mr Powell the “best speaker of the Eurosceptic cause”, Mr Clarke said: “He probably would find it amazing to believe that his party had become eurosceptic, and rather mildly anti-immigrant in a really strange way in 2016.

"Well I’m afraid on that I haven’t followed them, and I don’t intend to do so."

Addressing the Commons, Mr Clarke vowed that he would not back the second reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which will get the ball rolling on Britain’s exit from the EU, but insisted he was not disloyal to his party.

He added: “What I would point out to those who say that somehow I am being disloyal to my party by not voting in favour of this bill, I am merely propounding the official policy of the Conservative party for 50 years until 23 June 2016.

“I admire my colleagues who can suddenly become enthusiastic Brexiteers, having seen a light on the road to Damascus... I am afraid that light has been denied me.”

But pro-Brexit Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith argued the party was "absolutely not" anti-immigrant.

"As a government and as a country we should be proud of our support for immigration," the former Cabinet minister told the House.

"Whatever other countries choose to do, we put ourselves on the side of those fleeing terror.” 

'TRUST THE PEOPLE'

Discussion on the bill is set to last until midnight tonight and continue tomorrow until a vote is held in the evening. 

Opening the debate, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: "The eyes of the nation are on this chamber as we consider this bill.

"For many years there has been a creeping sense... that politicians say one thing and do another...

“We are considering a very simple question: Do we trust the people or not?"

He added: "For generations, my party has done so; now that question is before every member of this House... Trust the people.”