Opposition parties unite to condemn “most toxic rhetoric on immigration seen from any government in living memory”
Theresa May makes pitch for the centre ground, claiming her party would “stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong"
Theresa May - credit: PA
Opposition parties have united to condemn “the most toxic rhetoric on immigration seen from any government in living memory” at the Conservative Party conference.
Speaking in Birmingham, Prime Minister Theresa May made a pitch for the centre ground, claiming her party would “stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong", while announcing plans to target wealthy tax dodgers and improve regulation of energy firms.
Telling conference she would challenge those which recruited "cheap foreign labour" instead of British workers, May also signalled a break from David Cameron’s attempts to shrink back the size of the state, telling conference “it’s time to remember the good that government can do”.
She added: “While government does not have all the answers, government can be a force for good.”
But opposition parties accused May of attempting to stir up fears over immigration, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saying: “Conservative Party leaders have sunk to a new low this week as they fan the flames of xenophobia and hatred in our communities and try to blame foreigners for their own failures”.
While the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru signed a joint statement slamming “the most toxic rhetoric on immigration seen from any government in living memory”, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale described the conference as “one of the most disgusting spectacles in recent political history”.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon described Theresa May’s vision as a “deeply ugly one”.
Sturgeon said: “Theresa May’s speech comes as the Tories signal they are poised to target foreign workers in the most disgraceful display of reactionary rightwing politics in living memory.
“It is an appalling, regressive, and hugely troubling development which will leave many people in Scotland – and across the rest of the UK and beyond – wondering, with real concern, what kind of country the Tories want us to be.
“The prime minister has claimed that she is seeking out the middle ground of politics. The repellent reality of the policies planned by her party could not be more different.
“Theresa May’s vision of Brexit Britain is a deeply ugly one: a country where people are judged not by their ability or their contribution to the common good but by their birthplace or by their passport.
“It is a vision the Scottish Government wants no part of, and one which we will never subscribe to.”
The speech followed comments from Amber Rudd yesterday, which suggested firms would be required to reveal the proportion of foreign workers they employ.
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale warned that “the Tories appear to be morphing into UKIP”.
She said: “The chilling suggestion that firms should be forced to reveal how many migrant workers they employ shows just how xenophobic and vindictive the modern Tory Party has become.
“Scottish Labour is clear – this is not the Britain we want to see.
“Ruth Davidson’s speech shows that she was clearly embarrassed by the comments from her colleagues, but was still prepared to be the warm-up act for Theresa May.
“She is the face of a Conservative Party that is rotten to its core – a xenophobic and toxic party. This week’s conference has proved that we need a strong Labour Party to fight the Tories’ toxic plans and deliver real change for the people of the Scotland and the UK.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said Ruth Davidson “should be ashamed of the damage she and her party are doing to our country”.
He said: “With the Brexit gamble, anti-foreigner policies, English nationalist rhetoric and right wing agenda the Conservatives are taking our country in a narrow, closed minded and mean spirited direction. In contrast Liberal Democrats offer a progressive, pro-UK and pro-Europe agenda that is progressive, optimistic and outward looking.”
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