New Forest East



By Nick Cohen

Observer – 28 March 1999 [Extract]

The [Immigration and Asylum] bill to establish Fortress Britain is currently before a Commons committee. Mike O'Brien, a junior Home Office Minister, is already worried that he has been too soft. There have been no prosecutions of employers who give work to asylum seekers, he noticed, because it is impossible to prove that firms knowingly offer jobs to forlorn strangers. He toyed with the idea of making employers a special class of villain who can be convicted of committing a crime unwittingly – a prospect batty enough to become law.

His Labour colleagues cheered him on but, liberal readers will be glad to hear, one MP was moved to break the authoritarian consensus and condemn "draconian" measures. Asylum-seekers weren't "bogus", he explained, as he told how alarmed he was by Home Office proposals to confiscate lorry drivers' vehicles when refugees were found on board. "Has the Government thought through the scenario when a driver discovers that he has a terrified family hidden on his lorry?" he asked. "Wasn't there a risk that some would "do something desperate in that situation?"

The voice of liberalism was Dr Julian Lewis, a right-wing Tory who spent the Cold War finding reds under every bed and denouncing CND and Labour MPs as the useful idiots of the evil Soviet empire. Simply by standing still, he has moved to the far Left.