By Steve Doughty
Last updated at 1:10 AM on 12th March 2011
Admission: In an article, Tony Blair accepted that ‘there is a perception of failure’ over the issue
Tony Blair yesterday admitted for the first time that mass immigration has produced a ‘challenge’ which causes alarm to millions.
The former prime minister acknowledged there was a ‘debate’ over the impact of immigration and whether British generosity in allowing it had been abused.
Mr Blair said immigration had produced both a cultural and economic ‘challenge’.
He made his admission in an article in which he accepted that ‘there is a perception of failure’ over the issue. The view contrasted strongly with his stance as prime minister. In the 2005 election campaign he insisted immigrants had made a ‘huge contribution’ to Britain and condemned opponents for ‘exploiting people’s fears’.
In his 690-page autobiography published last year he devoted only one page to the controversial subject.
Yesterday, however, in Roman Catholic journal The Tablet, Mr Blair declared that immigration – 3.2million came to live in Britain during Labour’s years in power – was a matter of major importance.
He said: ‘A new type of debate is taking shape. While it can centre on immigration or protectionism, it is above all about issues to do with culture and integration – issues that are altogether more vigorous and potentially more explosive.
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‘In Europe, the debate is about whether our attempt to integrate cultures has succeeded or failed and, insofar as there is a perception of failure, it is about whether our “generosity” in allowing inward migration and encouraging multiculturalism has been abused.’
Last night Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton, said: ‘What a pity that Tony Blair waited until he left office to address an issue of concern to millions of people in this country.’
And Sir Andrew Green, of MigrationWatch, said: ‘Having ignored the development of mass immigration for 12 years, Mr Blair has now discovered that Labour’s legacy has left us with huge problems, both economic and social.’
Queue to get in: Immigrants on the French side of the Channel waiting for a lift to the UK. Blair admitted that 3.2m immigrants coming to the UK was a matter of major importance