The government were today rightly defeated on their plans to limit the number of Gurkhas who would be allowed to live in Britain, the country they have a long history of fighting for. The Lib Dem motion to allow all Gurkhas to settle here was passed with a majority of 21 after support by the Conservatives and a few Labour backbenchers with some backbone. But how on earth did it get to this point? What were the government thinking? There are two posibilidades:
Uno: The government genuinely thought it was the principled thing to do.
Dos: They thought they were choosing the populist option.
I find it hard to make a case for Option Uno, firstly because I completely disagree, secondly because their arguments fell apart so easily during the Commons debate, and thirdly and most crucially because their view was so isolated. Not only did MPs of all colours come out against the government's position, but the whole gamut of newspaper opinion and public opinion was also firmly against. The Daily Politics reported "not a single one [of the emails they received] support the current government restrictions".
But this creates a problem for Option Dos. If the government were going against the grain of opinion, can it be called populist? Well yes, it can if the government just misread the strength of anti-immigration sentiment. Immigration Tyrant Phil Woolas's populist hostility towards immigrantion has seeped deep into the core of government thought.
If you are going to do populism, you have to get it right. If you miss, you look both unprincipled and out-of-tune... a deadly combination. This Labour government deserve all of the stick they get for this pathetic attempt at playing politics with the livelihoods of people who have put their lives on the line for Britain.