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Inside Politics with Michael Wilkinson: Mark Harper's downfall as Immigration Minister

By citizenmike  |  Posted: February 12, 2014

Mark Harper MP speaks to the Citizen's Michael Wilkinson exclusively

Comments (5)

Each week public affairs reporter Michael Wilkinson takes an alternative stroll down the corridors of power.

They say that a week is a long time in politics and it certainly is.

In the case of Forest MP Mark Harper’s downfall as immigration minister, the furore barely lasted three days.

I switched on the radio on Saturday afternoon to learn that Mr Harper had quit his top Government role after he discovered his cleaner did not have the right to live in Britain and that her papers had been forged.

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By Sunday afternoon I whisked myself off to Cinderford to carry out an exclusive interview with Mr Harper – and it seems his only interview since resigning.

Monday saw my interview splashed across the Citizen and on shelves across Gloucester.

And by Tuesday it was all completely forgotten. Headlines such as the Mirror’s ‘Loudmouth immigration blunderer Mark Harper had it coming’ were short-lived.

Mr Harper’s aides within the Conservatives told me it had been a ‘tough time’ for the 43-year-old. Quite understandably really – it’s quite embarrassing to fall on your own sword. It was after all his idea to introduce tougher penalties for those employers and landlords found to be taking on illegal workers or tenants.

Former Home Office minister Baroness Scotland had to fork out £5,000 for a fine after finding herself in a similar situation back in 2009. She too had not knowingly employed an illegal worker. Does this mean Mr Harper will face the same fate? He suggests not, but time will tell.

It may have been a deeply embarrassing incident at the weekend – enough to resign – but the days that followed proved that nobody in Gloucestershire is really too bothered about the boo-boo.

It was also telling that politicians from all sides rallied around Mr Harper, praising him for doing the ‘honourable’ thing in resigning.

If anything, people in the Forest will be buoyed with the hope that they might get to see their MP a bit more in the run up to the 2015 general election.

He has been seen as a bit of a career politician thus far, having only spent seven months of his term on the back benches. One can’t help but wonder, however, just how long it will be before David Cameron has him promoted again.

And what for his cleaner, the Colombian lady called Isabella Acevedo. Will she now faces charges or be sent home?

Human rights campaigner Kiri Kankhwende said ‘the language that has been used to describe her is dehumanising’.

She is only ever referred to as an ‘illegal immigrant’ but it is a shame that her story may well go untold.

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  • The_Selector  |  February 14 2014, 12:11PM

    Pathetic responses from pathetic xenophobes.

    |   -17
  • Bonkim2003  |  February 13 2014, 9:56PM

    The Selector - you better offer her sanctuary at your home. In Medieval times she could have knocked on the local Church doors and once in was free from the law of the land. Whatever happened to Mr Assange? May be he would like company in the Embassy where he has safe haven.

  • RoadWombat  |  February 13 2014, 4:59PM

    What is there to know? She entered the country illegally. Unless she qualifies for genuine asylum (and I've not read anything to say she does) then she is simply someone who has committed two criminal acts: firstly by entering the UK illegally and secondly by fraudulently working. If she is prosecuted on those two counts and sentenced to six months' imprisonment, deportation as an undesirable alien can then be added to her sentence. She may, of course, agree to forgo the imprisonment for immediate uncontested deportation.

  • The_Selector  |  February 13 2014, 11:06AM

    Bonkim2003 you say that it's best that she is shipped back home without knowing anything about her. You ignorant xenophobe.

    |   -19
  • Bonkim2003  |  February 13 2014, 12:53AM

    Mark did the right thing - and that is why it went off the media radar in a day. Of course the flood hit soon after which is the main news. Regards the illegal immigrant - yes there may well be a story there - life is harsh and she resorted to fraud - so little sympathy and not clear if the average UK reader would worry too much. Best she is shipped back home.