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UK News

Senior church leader criticises language of home secretary in immigration speech

by Will Hobbs

The General Secretary of Churches Together, Mike Royal, has defended comparing Suella Braverman's standing ovation at the Tory party conference to when Hitler's speeches were applauded.

In Manchester on Tuesday, the Home Secretary described immigration today as "a hurricane", in contrast to what she said was just a "gust" when her own parents emigrated to the UK.

Speaking to Premier, Royal lamented the tone of Braverman's rhetoric, labelling it aggressive towards all migrants, including those entering the UK legally.

"I think, firstly, the general language that she used, but very specifically to talk about kind of migration as been hurricane for me was inflammatory. And what it does, actually, is to create an environment where migrants are not welcome. And she wasn't (even) talking about stopping the boats but about legal migration.

"As a country, we have the challenge of actually not enough workers to fill roles. And so the only place you can get those workers are those who are coming from overseas, many of whom are coming by legal routes. And at the same time, we are creating an environment where they are not welcome and being signalled as a problem. I'm not saying for a minute we don't need to have proper immigration controls, but we need to be careful about our language."

Royal noted that following the speech, Enoch Powell was trending on X. Powell's 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, in which he opposed immigration, led him to be sacked from Edwards Heath's shadow cabinet the next day.

"What started out as conversation in the 1930s, with similar type of language, ended up with the Holocaust. And it was really interesting to see where all of a sudden that Enoch Powell was framed in alongside Suella Braverman Enoch Powell was thrown out of the Conservative Party for making the points that he made way back in the 1960s. So if it was inappropriate for them, how possibly in 2023 can this be appropriate?"

Tory MP and Christian Gary Streeter told Premier that while he "wouldn't go down that route of the language she (Braverman) used", it was "great that we have colourful characters like Suella." He said it was important that politicians "are a broad-church, and the people can pick and choose who they get behind."

Royal, in response to MP Miriam Cates' comments that the church should "stop interfering with politics, told Premier: "One of the central aspects of mission is, of course, the declaration of the gospel. But that's in word, but also, in deed, and social justice is also a key, a mandate for the gospel armour as well.

"And I don't ever believe that we should be politically partisan. I believe that we should have an independent prophetic voice that can speak into situations where we feel that there's injustice or unrighteousness taking place. Absolutely, at times, that will mean cutting across the political grain."

Asked what he believed Christians should be praying for regarding politics, Royal said: "Let's pray for our government. Let's pray for our prime minister. Pray that God will give particularly the Prime Minister wisdom and pray for the forthcoming elections, that whoever is ultimately the winner, that they govern in a way that welcomes everyone. And at the same time, in really wise ways, takes the decisions necessary to lead the nation forward."

The headline of this article was amended to better reflect the content of the interview.
 

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