The Labour leader of one of Britain’s most multicultural cities has slammed a leaflet published by a Labour shadow minister for “abhorrent” comments about immigration.
Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in the country, attacked an election leaflet distributed by Shadow Business Minister Liam Byrne, who is defending his seat of Birmingham Hodge Hill.
And Sir Albert said there should be an apology for the comments in Mr Byrne’s leaflet - which included a warning that immigrants would have to “earn their right to stay” in the UK by learning English and obeying British laws.
But Mr Byrne insisted he had done nothing wrong, and was simply backing Labour's manifesto policies.
The council leader spoke out during a session of the city council after the leaflet’s contents were read out to him.
He did not know who had published the leaflet when he spoke - but he was responding to an accurate summary of its contents.
Without asking who had produced the leaflet, Sir Albert attacked it for “vilifying many people who have come into this country in order to work and have contributed to the health and well being of this country.”
He told city councillor Peter Douglas Osborn: “I think its abhorrent that any political party seeks to use language in the way councillor Peter Douglas Osborn has described."
Sir Albert continued: “And I certainly am quite willing to send to the agent of whoever the candidate is my sincere regret that this has happened and a wish that the language is not repeated in any way whatsoever.
“If I could find a way of trying to ensure that an apology was given then that is what I would be asking for.”
Sir Albert was responding to a question from Coun Osborn, a Conservative, who told him: “I was last week given a leaflet, it is being delivered in this city, that states the following, under letters that take up a centimetre high, headed immigration.
“It calls for stronger immigration controls, new exit checks, bringing back fingerprint checks for illegal migrants, greater fines for those employing illegal migrants and making sure that anyone who wants to stay earns their right to do so by learning English and obeying British laws.
“Anyone who wants to stay earns their right. I’m sure the implications of that are pretty obvious.”
The leaflet delivered by Mr Byrne does indeed call for “stronger border controls”, “new exit checks”, “bring back fingerprint checks for illegal migrants in Calais” and “trebling fines for employing illegal migrants”.
And as the councillor told Sir Albert, it says: “Make sure that anyone who wants to stay ‘earns’ their right to do so, by learning English, working hard, paying tax and obeying British laws.”
Mr Byrne said that his leaflet simply set out the same policies as Labour’s general election manifesto.
He said: “We need smart talk and sensible action on immigration reform. All politicians have a responsibility to treat this carefully and comprehensively.
“So quite frankly the debate deserves rather better than selectively quoting leaflets for party political point scoring."
“We need a new national consensus on immigration. That’s the position Labour’s manifesto sets out - and that’s what in our leaflets. Nothing more. Nothing less.”