Kristy Walker, Daily Mail (London), October 29, 2011
Tony Blair has defended Labour’s controversial mass immigration policy by claiming that Britain cannot succeed unless it opens its borders to more people from different backgrounds.
The former prime minister said it was ‘right’ that the country was made up of different cultures and faiths mixing together.
Mr Blair added that migrants had made Britain ‘stronger’ and said those calling for greater curbs on foreigners entering the country were wrong.
His comments come just days after official figures revealed that the population is expected to soar by the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds every year for the next decade.
A defiant Mr Blair insisted his party’s policy on immigration was the right one. He said: ‘It’s been a very positive thing and there is no way for a country like Britain to succeed in the future unless it is open to people of different colours, faiths and cultures.’
Under Labour, up to 5.5million people born outside the UK arrived as long-term migrants.
Between 1997 and 2010, around 2.3million left the country, meaning the UK population increased by around 3.2million as a direct result of foreign migrants.
In an interview with Eastern Eye newspaper, Mr Blair said: ‘The vision of a country of different cultures and different faiths mixing together is the right one.
‘That is not to say you don’t have problems at certain points, but those problems are to be overcome without losing the essence of what has actually allowed this country’s people to get on and do well.’
His comments were branded ‘shameless’ by critics and are set to fuel claims that the huge increase in migrants under Labour were due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to change the country.
Two years ago, Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, said that Labour’ s relaxation of controls was a deliberate plan to ‘open the UK to mass migration’.
He added that Labour wanted to rub the ‘Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date’.
Mr Blair added that the anti-immigration debate was one of the ‘past’. ‘I think the majority of people in Britain today are not prejudiced and can understand the benefits of migration.
‘I think what people worry about is where they feel there is no control over who comes in and there are no rules governing who comes in or not, and that is a different issue altogether.
‘It would be very unfortunate if by putting those rules into place, we view that immigration was a somehow bad thing for the country, because it is not.’
Tory MP Priti Patel, said: ‘As the daughter of immigrants, there is no question that those who work hard and make a positive contribution do enrich the fabric of our society.
‘But what Tony Blair has failed to recognise is that while he was in power, he opened the floodgates of mass and uncontrolled immigration which has left a damaging legacy in our towns and cities.’
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: ‘This is completely shameless from the Prime Minister who brought more than three million immigrants into Britain in the teeth of public opposition.’
Fellow Tory MP Dominic Raab added: ‘These comments are naïve if not reckless. Tony Blair has left Britain with a legacy of uncontrolled immigration that has put huge pressure on public services and undermined community cohesion’.