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Johnson for `rational debate’ on immigration, sans BNP

The Home Secretary not to `share a platform with a fascist’

9th November 2009: Home Secretary Alan Johnson has made clear he was not prepared to share a public platform with the BNP to challenge the far right party’s views on immigration. But, he called for a "rational" debate on the issue.

The assertion comes within days after Johnson received a pat on his back from several quarters for “honest appraisal”, following the admission that the government had made “mistakes” over the immigration policy.

In an interview with The Independent, Johnson had accepted Labour may have in the past avoided the issue. And, in the process may have played into the hands of the BNP.

Johnson has now asserted people think they have shied away from a debate on the issue, which may well be right. Describing it as a major public concern, he added the public deserves a rational debate on the issue, instead of what they sometimes got, which was at the extreme end of the scale.

Johnson insisted immigration had been good for Britain "culturally, socially and certainly economically". But without a proper public debate, it left the door open for the BNP to make the running on the issue, he warned.

Commenting on the BNP’s way of functioning, Johnson said part of its attraction was the party was raising things other political parties did not raise; and it had absolutely no inhibition about lying about these issues.

Insisting he would not share a common public platform with the BNP to debate the issue, Johnson said in his view he would still not share a platform with a fascist. That had been his view for 59 years and he had no intentions of changing it.

Johnson said it was a mistake to allow BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on BBC’s Question Time. The publicity, Johnson added, gave the BNP exactly what it wanted, but hoped people realised how inexpert Nick Griffin was as a politician.

Johnson’s assertions on immigration being good for Britain were only recently endorsed by a former Downing Street adviser, Andrew Neather.

He had asserted mass migration was encouraged by Labour ministers over the past decade to make the UK truly multicultural, and to plug in the gaps in the labour market. The policy made London a more attractive and diverse place, he had added.

Neather, who worked as a speechwriter for Tony Blair and in the Home Office for Jack Straw and David Blunkett, said the mass influx of migrant workers was neither a mistake, nor a miscalculation. It was rather a policy the party preferred not to reveal to its core voters.

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