Wednesday, 21 April 2010

"The BNP are useless! As useless as this hat!"


I like to stuff my hands in my pockets when I’m totally relaxed. So I’m not entirely sure how all those ‘body language’ experts concluded that Nick Clegg putting his hands in his pockets during the TV debate last week was a sign of nervousness. While Clegg is Cameron's equal in the style and appearance stakes, the leader of the Liberal Democrats comes across as having more substance than the Tory leader who seems to be spending his time flitting between personas. Last week, Nihal from BBC 1 interviewed the gruff Gordon Brown and this week, it’s the turn of the baby-faced Liberal leader Clegg. Excerpts from the interview...

...Nihal: I just want you to get into your immigration plans because people that vote for the BNP say it’s because Labour has been so lax on immigration and allowed so many people to come in. You are now being levelled with the same charges by the parties that you are the laxest out of all of them. Are your policies on immigration going to drive more people towards the BNP?
Nick Clegg: No of course not, our policies on immigration are designed to deliver the immigration system that I think people want, which is one that works, for starters, that will be a nice change, because you know the chaos, the administrative chaos in the immigration system under a succession of Conservative and Labour Governments has got to end, but is also fair, lets people come here to work, to make a contribution, to pay their taxes, but discourages bad immigration.

Nihal: Well how many people do we need here then?
Nick Clegg: I don’t think it’s a question frankly of numbers

Nihal: It has to be of numbers doesn’t it because all the papers, all the right wing papers are about and that drives people towards the BNP doesn’t it?
Nick Clegg: Can I just tell you why I think the numbers game is a mug’s game, I mean look at the Conservatives, they introduced a cap, but they won’t tell you, is it 10 is it 10,000 is it 10 million. I think we should know. But also, remember, there are a huge number of people who go and work and live abroad, I think there are roughly as many people living and working abroad from Britain as there are who you know come here. It’s a kind of two way street. I think we need to have borders that work, so I’d actually be tougher on our borders. I want to see the immediate re-introduction of exit checks. Exit checks mean you not only know who’s coming into the country, but you know who’s going out, you know when people should go out. It was the Conservatives who abolished exit controls and Labour then followed up. So I actually want you know a proper border knowing who’s coming in and out, I want a proper border police force, we have every right to police our borders. Then we need to do two things. Firstly we need to encourage anyone who’s coming here, to live and work here, to work in places where there is work for them to do, and where there isn’t an unreasonable strain on housing, on schools and so on, that’s why we are saying, unlike the Labour and Conservative parties, look if people are going to come and work here and you do all checks on them, also make sure they can work in those regions and parts of the country where they should. And just one final thing, the thing that’s sort of caught the headlines in the last day or two is about a very specific one off problem, which is that because of the chaos under the immigration system of the Labour and the Conservative parties for years, you’ve got lots and lots of people who have been coming here illegally for a long time, so you’ve got to deal with that, you’ve got to deal with lots of people that are living in the shadows of our British economy.

Nihal: What do you say, as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, to someone who’s thinking about voting BNP; that’s something that scares the listeners to the BBC Asian Network, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people do vote BNP. What are you going to say to them to make them feel better? Because what the BNP is saying is they’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our houses, we feel like there is a flood. And that word flood is banded around in the press all the time.
Nick Clegg: Sure. Firstly, I feel really strongly about this. The BNP is an evil, vile, fascist organisation. We, the Liberal Democrats have been devastatingly successful at beating the BNP. Remember a few years ago, when everyone said Burnley was going to be the first BNP town. Look now, it’s now run by the Liberal Democrats. First of all, you explain to them that the BNP are a vile organisation, but you say something much more powerful, which is that they’re useless. They’re utterly useless. And I’ll tell you why they are useless. Because hate, which is all that the BNP peddles, doesn’t create a single job, doesn’t build a single affordable home, doesn’t solve a single crime. If you want help for yourself, for your family, for your parents, for your grandparents, for your street, for your community, the BNP is useless.

Nihal: Extremism. How do you combat extremism in this country without increasing Islamophobia?
Nick Clegg: Firstly, if people break the law, they are on the wrong side of the law and they need to be dealt with. But as long as people are respecting the law, you’ve got to engage with each other. You know, there are people in politics, in religion who have views that I really don’t like and think are wrong, but you’ve got to engage with them.

Nihal: So talk to Anjum Choudary (spokesman for the radical Islam4UK Group)?
Nick Clegg: I think the danger of just pushing people under the ground, sweeping things under the carpet, is that you allow the hate, the extremism, the sense of grievance, the sense of martyrdom to fester. So as a general principle, I think it’s really important in a democratic society to make sure that you don’t stereotype people. You know, I hear constantly, people very lazily talking about almost equating the Muslim faith with extremism. It’s just deeply offensive to my Muslim friends. For a start, there isn’t one Muslim Community, there are Muslim communities, from different nations, from different strands of the Muslim faith. And of course, you need to come down really hard on people who spread hate, who incite violence, of course you do that, and I’m very hard-line on that. But I think it’s really important that you constantly, particularly young men, who are very angry in some of these communities, you say to them look come on then tell us what’s making you angry, get them out into the open, if you push people into the shadows, if you sweep the problem under the carpet, it always gets worse.

Nihal: A lot of Asians run their own businesses, self-employed. What would the Liberal Democrat Government do for them?
Nick Clegg: My local newsagent was telling me just the other day, that his biggest problem, and he’s someone that has been working from dawn to dusk for years, unbelievably hard, really successful local shop. Guess what? His bank is completely letting him down, his bank has suddenly told him out of the blue, that they’re going to him charge him 8% over the base rate in order to keep his overdraft facility going. And it’s crippling him. So I think the biggest thing for small businesses up and down the country, whatever they do, is to make sure that the banks lend. And we are the only party in British politics now saying the banks shouldn’t be hoarding the money that we’ve given them, they should be lending it. We should spit up the banks so that they can never again play Russian Roulette with your everyday savings. They should lend the money, which is after all public money, to viable British businesses and they should do it on reasonable rates. That is the absolute lifeblood of small businesses in Britain.