Ken Clarke: Andy Burnham like a ‘paler version of Nigel Farage’
Ken Clarke has said Andy Burnham’s recent stance on immigration has left him sounding like a "paler version" of Nigel Farage.
Mr Burnham attacked Labour's support for free movement in the Commons last week, saying it is “inherently discriminatory” and “undermining the cohesion” of the UK.
He doubled down on his comments this morning, arguing free movement puts downward pressure on wages and causes strain on schools and public services.
Mr Clarke, who followed Mr Burnham's interview on Sky News' Murnaghan, criticised the Labour candidate for the Greater Manchester mayoralty for his remarks.
When asked about the suitability of Boris Johnson to remain foreign secretary, Mr Clarke said that Mr Johnson, unlike Mr Burnham, understood the value of cooperation with Europe.
The former chancellor said: “Unlike Andy, going on about free movement of labour, sounding a bit like a paler version of Nigel Farage, Boris has never been anti-immigrant, Boris does realise that the economic interests of Britain are helped if we have free access to the biggest open market in the world."
Mr Burnham told MPs that parts of Greater Manchester are places that “continue to take in the vast majority of the country’s asylum seekers and refugees and largely they do so without any strife or difficulty”.
He added: “I don’t want to hear anyone claim that people in places like Leigh that voted to leave are in any way xenophobic or racist.
“They are welcoming, generous people but they also want fairness and they don’t think it’s fair that the country’s least well-off communities should experience pressure on wages, on housing, on public services... without any help to manage it.”
Mr Burnham reiterated his position today, when he said: “I believe we’ve got to have a system that is more linked to people coming to fill a specific job in the labour market rather than speculative free movement, which has actually caused some quite difficult challenges in parts of Greater Manchester. We’ve seen downward pressure on wages."
Elsewhere, Mr Clarke backed Mr Johnson’s comments on Saudi Arabia, in which he accused the state of engaging in “proxy wars”, just days after Theresa May visited the region.
Despite Number 10 slapping down the foreign secretary, the Tory veteran said he wondered how long Britain could ignore human rights issues while supplying weapons to the country.
He added that Mr Johnson’s character had a “different style” as foreign secretary.
He said: "Throughout the referendum campaign, it was all the Boris and Dave show as far as the national media were concerned and Boris’ personality was always going to emerge, and he’s different in his style as foreign secretary, but I think the criticisms are pretty silly, and they’re just a bit of light relief really from the serious issues which I hope Boris, who’s a very intelligent man, will be as engaged in as Theresa May.”