UK PM criticised for posing for photos during immigration raid

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has been criticised by civil rights groups and political opponents for using a raid by immigration officers on a house containing suspected illegal immigrants as a photo opportunity.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said that the decision to pose for the photo shoot was in 'bad taste' and said that it was 'constitutionally inappropriate for elected politicians to intervene in law enforcement'.

Ms Chakrabarti questioned whether legally the prime minister had the right to enter the premises. She said it was even more inappropriate for him to pose for photos as well. In an interview reported in The Guardian newspaper she said 'Who gave Mr Cameron permission to look round these premises? Being prime minister doesn't give you the right to enter private property willy-nilly'.

Albanians

Mr Cameron accompanied immigration officers on a raid of a house in Slough, a dormitory town near Heathrow airport west of London. The house is said to have been home to four men believed to be Albanians who were living in the country illegally.

After the suspects had been removed from the house, and it was clear that there was no possible danger to Mr Cameron, he posed for photos with the Home Secretary Theresa May and gave press interviews about changes to the UK's immigration system which he had announced that day.

In an interview with ITN television news at the house, the prime minister said 'What we're doing today, is making a series of changes which says to people, "if you come here illegally, we will make it harder for you to have a home, to get a car, to have a job, to get a bank account and when we find you, and we will find you, we will send you back to the country you came from".'

Distasteful

Don Flynn of the Migrant Rights Network said that it was 'distasteful' that the prime minister had joined the raid and the Labour MP Tom Watson described Mr Cameron's attendance as 'improper'.

He said that it was 'improper for Cameron to be engaging in a PR stunt over alleged illegal immigration before people involved in the raid have been to trial or tribunal'.

He added 'They deserve due process and it will be much harder for them to achieve that now that the prime minister has led a media circus to their home'.

Moderates could become uncomfortable

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com said, 'Clearly Mr Cameron has calculated that he will win votes with this PR opportunity. It may well persuade some UKIP voters to come back to the Conservative fold as a result of it but it may also make more moderate Conservatives uncomfortable.

Mr Cameron has spent several years trying to persuade voters that the Conservatives are not 'the nasty party'. Photo opportunities like this one could undo that work'.

The current Home Secretary Theresa May, a Conservative, first referred to the Conservative Party as 'the Nasty Party' in 2002.

The Nasty Party

She warned the Conservative Party Conference that the party was too insular, drew its support from too narrow a base and was seen by others as 'the nasty party'. The phrase stuck.

When Mr Cameron became Conservative leader in 2005, he immediately set about broadening the base, appealing to ethnic minorities and women and pretending to care about the environment.

Now, it seems, after an electoral shock earlier this year, Mr Cameron has had a change of heart.

UKIP

At the recent European Parliament elections, held in late May, the anti-European Union, anti-immigration UK Independence Party came first in the poll in the UK. It took 27.5% of the votes cast and won 24 of the UK's 73 seats in the parliament.

A great deal of UKIP's support came from traditional Conservative supporters and Mr Cameron, and his Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby, want to win them back.

The EU election was decided using a proportional representation system. The Westminster election will be held using a 'first past the post' system which will make it almost impossible for UKIP to repeat its success in the EU elections.

Split vote

However, the Conservatives are worried that enough traditional Conservative supporters will vote for UKIP to allow the left-of-centre Labour Party to take seats from the Conservatives.

Sanwar Ali said 'I imagine we will see quite a lot of this sort of posturing over the next nine months'.

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