Joanna Lumley dictates policy in the fight for Gurkhas’ rights
“JOANNA Lumley staged an extraordinary ambush on Gordon Brown’s hapless Immigrations Minister over the Gurkhas yesterday. In a bravura performance, the actress seized the initiative in her battle for soldiers’ rights and reduced Phil Woolas to an abject and humiliated figure.
“ Adopting the air of an angry schoolmistress, she sought him out at Westminster and frogmarched him to a live press conference for a very public dressing down.
“In the process, she effectively rewrote government policy. She was stung into action after two Falklands War heroes received letters suggesting they were being barred from Britain – less than 24 hours after Gordon Brown had assured her that he would take personal charge of the Gurkhas’ legal battle for citizenship rights.
“In extraordinary scenes Miss Lumley – the daughter of a British Gurkha officer – signalled she was about to denounce the Government for its betrayal of the veterans. The actress best – known as Patsy in the comedy Absolutely Fabulous, and the minister ended up shoulder – to – shoulder after she outflanked Mr Woolas on the steps of an entrance just before a meeting and confronted him publicly over the shambles.
“She pounced on the unwitting minister, announcing in her inimitable cut – glass tones: ‘I want to speak to you.’
“After emergency talks, the red – faced Immigrations Minister was forced to insist the verdict on the veterans was an ‘interim’ one – and to suggest they would be allowed to stay after all.
“The row centres on the immigration status of Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997. Rules introduced by Mr Woolas last month were fiercely criticised by campaigners, who warned they would place massive restrictions on the number of heroes admitted by the country they fought for.