UK Politics

Tory MP: Vince Cable should quit after Enoch Powell reference

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Media captionBusiness Secretary Vince Cable made his comments on The Andrew Marr Show

Vince Cable should quit the coalition government after he "effectively compared his Conservative colleagues to Enoch Powell", a Tory MP has said.

Nigel Mills called the Business Secretary's comments "ridiculous".

The Lib Dem had accused Tories of being "in bit of a panic because of UKIP", citing Powell's rivers of blood speech as a previous panic over immigration.

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said Mr Cable was like a "slightly rude" uncle at Christmas who was tolerated.

Mr Mills said he thought it would now be "very hard" for the business secretary "to sit around the cabinet table" with the people he had criticised.

Asked whether he thought Mr Cable should be made to leave the Cabinet, Mr Mills, MP for Amber Valley said: "That's a decision above my pay grade, but it's a particularly strange way to work with partners.

"I think Mr Cable has always had a rather creative interpretation of what collective responsibility ought to look like.

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Media captionNigel Mills: Vince Cable's comments "ridiculously over the top"

"These comments - coming on the back of, I would say, some completely sensible policy announcements by the Prime Minister to restrict welfare to people who are newly arrived here, can't claim until they've paid in - I mean it just looks completely out of touch with the sentiments of most British people.

"I thought Mr Cable should have gone over his ridiculous remarks a couple of years ago, so I'm not going to change my mind now."

'Populist measures'

The row was sparked by Mr Cable's comments about immigration policy on Sunday's Andrew Marr Show.

He said: "There is a bigger picture here. We periodically get these immigration panics in the UK.

"I remember going back to Enoch Powell and 'rivers of blood' and all that. If you go back a century, it was panics over Jewish immigrants coming from eastern Europe.

"The responsibility of politicians in this situation when people are getting anxious is to try to reassure them and give the facts, not panic and resort to populist measures that do harm."

Enoch Powell's speech in 1968, with warnings about the future impact of immigration on the UK, led to it being known as the "rivers of blood" speech. It prompted his sacking from the Conservative front bench the next day.

The issue of immigration has been high profile ahead of the ending of the last work restrictions in the UK for people from Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January.

The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition have announced restrictions on access to benefits - but Mr Cable opposes the idea of a general cap on EU migration to the UK, which Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May has been exploring.

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps told the Evening Standard: "Vince Cable's a bit like an old uncle at Christmas - slightly rude, does not always make sense, but he is part of the extended family so you live with it."

Labour immigration spokesman David Hanson said: "The Government are hopelessly split and increasingly acrimonious on their approach to the end of transitional controls for Bulgaria and Romania.

"Rather than come up with practical measures in a calm and measured way, they have descended into name-calling and panic. Once again the rhetoric fails to match the reality with this government on immigration."

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