Appearing on Question Time with Nigel Farage last night, Tory minister Anna Soubry unexpectedly (and brilliantly) departed from the Lynton Crosby script and launched a full-frontal attack on the UKIP leader for his scaremongering over immigration. Rather than pandering to Farage, as most Conservatives would do, she said: “You talk about facts – in my constituency your party put out a leaflet saying 29 million people from Romania and Bulgaria were going to flood into our country. Well, the population is only 27-and-a-half million of the two of them.
“You do not talk facts, you talk prejudice. That’s what you talk, and you scaremonger and you put fear in people’s hearts.
“Look, times are tough. We know that. But when times are tough, there’s a danger and history tells us when things are not good, you turn to the stranger and you blame them. And you shouldn’t. That is wrong. And I’m proud of our country’s history and I’m proud that people come here.”
Courtesy of Political Scrapbook, you can watch footage of the clash from 30 seconds onwards.
But if Soubry’s words were inspiring, she must know that they apply as much to her own party’s ministers as to Farage. Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith relentlessly whip up fear over “benefit tourism” despite there being no evidence for their claims. David Cameron portrays migrants as a “constant drain” on the UK, casually disregarding their net contribution to the economy. But in these populist times, Soubry’s tour de force was a comforting reminder that there are still some Conservatives (Ken Clarke and Gavin Barwell among them) who trade in facts, not prejudice.