Speaking at the Conservative party conference on Tuesday, the Tory MP for Broxtowe, Anna Soubry, blamed newspapers for their coverage of sensitive political issues and said she now intends to make the positive case for immigration.
At the Bright Blue event in Birmingham, Soubry said: "I'm fed up with the Daily Mail talking nonsense about the NHS and immigration.
"All those [Polish] workers in Boston, they’re fit, and young, they don’t go and use the NHS, that’s a myth, they damn well work in it but they don’t use it."
Soubry also admitted she had regrets about the way the referendum campaign was fought, saying: "We didn’t talk about immigration during the referendum campaign, the Remain side didn’t, we were specifically told not to debate it and it was a terrible mistake."
Now that she has returned to the back benches after serving as minister for small business until the reshuffle in July, she hopes she can be more outspoken: "Nobody’s ever made the positive case for immigration, that’s what I’m seeking to do from the back benches. We’re always made to apologise for immigration."
The Broxtowe MP is a member of Open Britain, which wants the UK to remain in the single market and not curtail freedom of movement.
During an impassioned speech to the audience, she said negative sentiments against immigration often don't come from areas with high immigration.
"Where people talk about 'controls on immigration', they don’t want control, they want less immigration. Let’s get right down to this: There are conflations here between people who live in areas where they have hardly seen a black or brown face, and those areas which have.
"I can speak as an East Midlander about the great city of Leicester. There is not one racial group domination in Leicester, and how did Leicester vote? It voted to remain in the EU. Look at the areas like Sunderland, ladies and gentlemen. Sunderland is not exactly known for its large immigrant population. There are parts of Sunderland which have barely seen one.
"This is true, this is not made up, look at the figures. Look at places like Rotherham, like Doncaster, look at Leeds… Look at Manchester, though, where there is a high level of migration and has been for many decades – they voted Remain. How did London vote in the referendum? They voted In.
"It’s very easy, I accept, for metropolitan types like me and my daughters, who were brought up in the city of Nottingham, who barely notice the color of anybody’s skin any more. Compare to areas where they feel forgotten, neglected, and disillusioned, and they blame 'immigrants', who they’ve barely seen and experienced, for their woes and their disaffection.
"That’s why we’ve got to have that honest debate and get rid of some of the nonsenses. The problem isn’t immigrants, it’s because people have bad lives; because politicians haven’t looked after some of the poorest, deprived people."
Soubry, who's used to controversy, said "migration had huge benefits culturally and economically", and added that the Conservative party should be telling immigrants coming to the UK: "We don’t care about where you're from, we care about where you’re going."
Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Marie Le Conte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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