Gordon Brown 'launches poll campaign' in Indian-majority constituency

Gordon Brown 'launches poll campaign' in Indian-majority constituency

“When both the prime minister and the home secretary make their first major speeches for some time on immigration you can be sure that the election campaign has started in earnest,” the Home Affairs editor of the Labour-supporting Guardian newspaper wrote Friday.
With general elections due by early June, Britain is in the midst of a heated and rancorous debate on immigration, with almost every other important issue sought to be linked to it - including health, education, jobs, terrorism and population growth.
With India's economic rise on the global stage and Britain struggling with a recession, much of the debate recently has centred around what to do about the highly-skilled jobs that Britain badly needs but doesn't have.

Brown chose Southall - a west London neighbourhood where Hindu and Sikh Punjabis dominate - as the venue of his first major speech on immigration since being made Prime Minister in June 2007.

In his speech Thursday, made in the presence of Punjab-born Southall MP Virendra Sharma, Brown made it clear that while migrants continued to make “enormous contributions” to all walks of life in Britain, they had the duty and responsibility to share in the values of the host nation.

And, he added, immigration was a subject that could not be left to racists and fringe parties - a reference to the recent rise of the anti-immigrant British National Party (BNP), which has won two seats in the European Parliament and many in local authority bodies across Britain.
Brown claimed Britain will keep its doors open to highly-skilled migrants from outside Europe - a group that is dominated by Indians - but conceded that people's attitude to migrants might differ according to their economic and social circumstances.
Britons who are poor, competing for lowly-paid jobs at a time of recession or living in an area with few migrants might see migrants very differently from those who are working for a multinational company in a big city, he said.
Brown sought to set the record straight on some widely-held myths about immigration in Britain.
Net immigration, Brown said, was falling, not rising; a tax levied on non-European immigrants meant they were paying extra into a 70 million pound fund that was paying for everybody's local education and healthcare in some areas; and putting a cap on overall levels of immigration would only damage the British economy.

Coming amid a rising tide of anti-migrant violence in urban centres across England, the speech was welcomed by the local MP Sharma, who said it put the record straight.
“The Prime Minister has taken on the Conservatives and the fringe parties with this speech, which shows that the government is determined to have a fair and firm immigration policy,” Sharma said.
Keith Vaz, the senior Indian-origin MP in Britain, agreed, saying: “People have a problem with illegal immigrants, not those who are here legally. A lot of the problem is the product of bad administration at the UK Border Agency.”

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