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The corridors of power...

Interviewed on the radio the other morning about Sangatte and asylum, Jack Straw audibly swallowed. 'Er, um, a matter for the Home Office, he said.'

If he had told us what he was really thinking: ‘it’s David Blunkett’s pigeon and whereas I, as foreign secretary, wish him well, as his arch rival in new Labour’s pecking order, seeing Blunkett winning plaudits denied me when I was doing his job, I can only hope it all goes pear shaped.’

But so far it has not, which is why Blunkett’s political stock keeps rising as Straw’s sinks. Asylum and migration are becoming one of the great issues of the decade. In a globalised world people move helter skelter and where does home end and foreign begin?

Visit the back office of a big finance house or ICT centre of any major organisation and you can see migration is already a proven fact of life.

But there is huge difference between much prized Indian software engineers and ill-educated Albanians who end up on the run down estates the government is trying to regenerate.

It’s so typical of Blair that he recognises all that and, privately, can enthrall with a vision of a changing and changed Britain but on the platform, he goes all scripted and conservative. When you look at his diary, his interventions in Europe and the contingency plans to repel boarders, Labour policy is far less than his own vision.

Not that there’s not a good reason for appearing to focus on restricting numbers coming into the UK. The public is apprehensive; the Daily Mail is on the look out for a right wing crusade and Blairites saw what happened to the left in France.

But so far Labour’s formula has worked. Blunkett has been a triumph at the Home Office. The Tories flounder because Blair and Blunkett have given them no opening. British politics feels different from France’s. It may not be very attractive to moralists, but it is proving remarkably effective in closing down political opposition.

  • David Walker writes for The Guardian.

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