Labour: councils can’t set immigration policy

This is the party election broadcast by the Labour party that was broadcast just now on British TV. You might notice that the first thing Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, talked about was immigration and how the last Labour government got the subject wrong. I recall that, in the 2004 London mayoral election, both BNP and UKIP talked about things that were outside the remit of the mayor, including immigration: UKIP’s Frank Moloney talked of “less illegal asylum seekers” while the BNP’s Julian Leppert simply said “we offer the BNP’s national immigration policies”.

Labour are clearly treating this as a parliamentary election, when in fact councillors are there to perform certain legislated local duties. Their duty is to administer a local budget for things like education, social services, housing and culture. They have a very limited power to pass by-laws and these must be approved by a secretary of state (i.e. by the government) and must comply with national legislation and European law. They do not have the power to set or vary immigration policy; that is only the ability of Parliament.

Labour have a history of playing to the tabloid-reading anti-immigration gallery when it suits them, and they also know that they cannot really do much about anything by winning council elections because their hands are tied by central government budget cuts. Clearly they are trying to distract from what they can’t do as councillors by talking about … something else they can’t do anything about but would like to be associated with come 2015, as they have no intention of restoring to councils the powers that have been stripped from them since 1979.

So, in case you saw this evening’s broadcast and you are really interested in keeping all the foreigners out: you can’t do it at a council election. They really missed an opportunity to tell us why we should vote Labour at a council election.

Also, this isn’t the first time Labour have resorted to dirty tactics on immigration: in 2010, Oldham Labour Party (near Manchester) distributed this card, urging voters to “Stand by Phil” (i.e. Phil Woolas) because the Lib Dems “plan to give hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants the right to stay”, against a background of (British) al-Muhajiroun demonstrators.

A card distributed by the Oldham Labour Party in 2010

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