There was uproar in the Labour party (though not from absentee leader Jeremy Corbyn) when Amber Rudd, the home secretary, suggested that British businesses may have to disclose how many foreign staff they employ.
Rudd said the scheme was designed to limit economic opportunism and “prevent migrants doing jobs that British people can do.”
This was promptly denounced as xenophobia by Andy Burnham and also Emily Thornberry, who said the policy wouldn’t be out of place in Mein Kampf:
— Emily Thornberry (@EmilyThornberry) October 6, 2016
This has been an unpleasant, xenophobic Tory Conference. Explains UKIP chaos. Theresa May has presided over the return of the Nasty Party.
— Andy Burnham (@andyburnhammp) October 5, 2016
They were “not having this”, they said. Even Corbyn, when he got back from holiday, described it as “divisive” and “xenophobic”.
But let’s cast our minds back briefly to 2012, when a remarkably similar policy was put forward by none other than the leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband.
Forcing firms to declare if they employ large numbers of immigrants. Xenophobic Tory policy https://t.co/xaEDE2HUaY
— John Rentoul (@JohnRentoul) October 6, 2016
He promised to take action to help British people who “locked out” of jobs by foreign workers – and pledged to do it by forcing firms to declare if they employ high numbers of migrants.
He also wanted to ban overseas-only employment agencies, and set up a system to highlight areas where locals were “dominated” by a high influx of migrant workers.
Burnham and Thornberry were both in Miliabnd’s shadow cabinet at the time, and were clearly happy enough with the policy, or they would have resigned. (Thornberry ended up leaving in a rather different way).
So – it looks like it’s OK when Labour announces controls on migrant workers – but when the Tories do it it is racist, divisive and a bit like Hitler.
They, and everyone else, are of course allowed to critique the policy. But today’s display from Labour is hypocritical tribalism – denouncing an idea without considering if the Tories might have nicked the idea from, oh – Labour.
Don’t worry, Emily and Andy – Heat Street is here to remind you when you about the times when your own gang was no so different from today’s “Nasty Party”.