Hammersmith and Shepherds’ Bush: Immigration tops the bill

By Kaye Wiggins

Andy Slaughter,the Labour parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith and Shepherds’ Bush, told a hustings audience he disagrees with his party’s stance on illegal immigration.

And he indicated support for the Liberal Democrat policy of a partial amnesty.

At a the event in the constituency last week, Slaughter was asked whether he backed the Liberal Democrat policy, outlined in the party’s manifesto, of allowing illegal immigrants who spoke English and had lived in the country for ten years to be granted citizenship. He said: “I may be speaking out of step with my party, but we should in certain circumstances allow them to stay.”

At the second televised leaders’ debate, Gordon Brown said the Liberal Democrat proposal “would be a wrong policy for this country”.

“It would encourage people to come to this country thinking that at some point we would legalise their presence,” Brown said.

Hammersmith Liberal Democrat candidate Merlene Emerson was applauded at the hustings when she said it was impossible to deport all of Britain’s illegal immigrants. “Let’s be practical. We have to find an intelligent solution, and not an emotional response,” she said.

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate, said: “The case for an amnesty still needs to be made. We need to see what the benefits are.”

Bailey also said at the hustings that he could not rule out a rise in VAT under a Conservative government. “A VAT rise won’t have as bad an effect as a National Insurance rise,” he said.

Speaking after the event, both Slaughter and Bailey said they were not worried about losing votes in Hammersmith to the Liberal Democrats.

“Nationally, we’re on tenterhooks, but we’re not seeing it in Hammersmith,” Bailey said. “You can’t just pop up and expect to win.”

Slaughter said he was not concerned about the Liberal Democrats because the party would take more votes from the Conservatives.

Kaye Wiggins is a reporter at Third Sector magazine