On migrants, Balls 'is to right of Enoch Powell': Tories condemn would-be Labour leader
By Gerri Peev
Last updated at 8:15 AM on 8th June 2010
Ed Balls has been compared to maverick right-wing MP Enoch Powell after calling for immigration to be drastically restricted.
The Labour leadership candidate caused controversy by insisting that free movement across the European Union should be stopped.
He also accused former boss Gordon Brown of making a 'mistake' by ignoring concerns over immigration policy.
But Education Secretary Michael Gove said Mr Balls had managed to 'outflank' the Tory leader to the right on both immigration and Euroscepticism, ' something not done since Enoch Powell was in this House'.
Warnings: Ed Balls has criticised his former boss and mentor, Gordon Brown, for brushing immigration concerns 'under the carpet'
Mr Powell fuelled controversy as a Tory MP in 1968, when he made his 'rivers of blood' speech warning about apocalyptic consequences if immigration was allowed to rise unchecked.
Opponents suspect Mr Balls, the former Treasury minister and Education Secretary, is trying to strengthen his leadership campaign by appealing to influential union members, who have warned that EU migration is lowering British workers' wages.
Over the weekend, Mr Balls said that the long-standing free movement of labour across Europe should be stopped because it allows 'unaccompanied migrants to send child benefit and tax credits back to families at home'.
Of Mr Brown, he added: 'I said to him that he should've been talking immigration for the last year and a half and it was a mistake to brush it under the carpet.
'There is an economic impact on wages… the movement of unskilled workers could be destabilising.'
Yet as a senior Treasury adviser in 2004, it was Mr Balls' department which gave unfettered access to jobs in Britain for the new EU members in Eastern Europe.
And in 2006, as a City Minister, Mr Balls lavished praise on the EU common market, calling it 'one of Europe's defining achievements'.
Ed Balls has been compared to maverick right-wing MP Enoch Powell after calling for immigration to be drastically restricted
His attempts just a few years later to paint himself as a radical on immigration drew scepticism from rivals within Labour and across the political divide.
'I'D HAVE ASSASSINATED THATCHER'
Labour leadership candidate John McDonnell said yesterday he would 'assassinate' Margaret Thatcher if he could go back to the 1980s.
The left-wing MP made the outrageous claim at a hustings as he tried to win over union activists – who hold a third of the votes for the party leadership.
To applause from the audience in Southport, Merseyside, Mr McDonnell said that if he found himself transported back to the 1980s he would 'assassinate Thatcher'.
The MP for Hayes and Harlington in West London insisted his comments were 'a joke and it went down as a joke'.
But Lord Tebbit, who was Trade and Industry Secretary when the IRA tried to blow up the Cabinet in 1984 during the Conservative party conference in Brighton, said: 'I think it is rather in poor taste. After all, it was his party's friends who did try to kill her.'
Lord Tebbit's wife Margaret was crippled by the blast, which killed five and narrowly missed Lady Thatcher and her husband Denis.
Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think tank, described the remarks as 'a new low in British political debate'.
Mr Burnham became the first rival leadership contender to criticise Mr Balls, saying: 'We can't turn the clock back on free movement – after all, British workers have been big beneficiaries in the past – but we can change rules on benefits and that's where I will focus.'
Mr Balls was also called a hypocrite by Immigration Minister Damian Green, who said as Mr Brown's Treasury adviser, Mr Balls had been responsible for Britain's 'open-door' policy on EU migration.
But Mr Balls' allies claimed his plans for immigration were more robust than anything agreed by the coalition government.
The proposals would require the Lisbon Treaty to be amended – something which Labour had attacked the Tories for wanting during the election campaign.
Leadership rival David Miliband also criticised the idea of tearing up and renegotiating the Lisbon Treaty when he was Foreign Secretary.
Mr Balls is due to address the GMB union today at a conference in Southport, Merseyside. He missed yesterday's leadership hustings because he had to attend education questions in the Commons.
Just two years after EU enlargement, official figures showed 600,000 European citizens had registered for work in Britain by 2006. The true figure is expected to be higher as registration was voluntary.
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'I'd have assassinated Thatcher': Labour leadership hopeful's shock claim to union activists
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