Should Joanna Lumley be allowed to dictate Gurkha policy?

May 8, 2009

While Gordon Brown increasingly draws comparisons to the mortally wounded bull gasping his last at a Spanish corrida, one personality at Westminster  has been putting on a show of decisive policy-making that has brought the bloodthirsty crowd to its feet.

Totally at ease with publicity, absurdly photogenic and much loved amongst the electorate at large, actress Joanna Lumley — AbFab’s Patsy to the younger ones, The Avengers’ Purdy to more seasoned TV viewers — has provided Westminster watchers with an object lesson in how to get things done.

She has led the charge for the Gurkhas from the start, corralling the press, harrying ministers over their right to settle in Britain and even holding private meetings with Gordon Brown when she felt it was time to go to the top.

Yesterday was perhaps her finest hour as she handbagged the hapless immigration minster Phil Woolas in the Westminster offices of the BBC as the cameras rolled, reportedly extracting more concessions from him.

It was a stirring performance and one which has only served to underline the apparent weakness of the government.

But should an unelected lobbyist really be allowed to have such an influence on policy? 

This is after all an immigration issue and surely no government would take on such a formidable combination as Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas and risk all the negative headlines if it did not feel the issue was important.

Is it time for Patsy to exit stage right and leave the issue to our elected representatives? 


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Just another example of how this government changes policy to suit whoever happens to be shouting loudest at the moment.

And Ms Lumley is unfortunately just another example of a celebrity with too much time and money on her hands urging the rest of us to throw away our money and best interests to suit her whim. I doubt that she will be rolling out the welcome mat for Ghurkhas in her own leafy suburb or contributing to their medical costs.

The government’s policy of encouraging large scale immigration to “diversify” the country and replace its vanishing working class voter base has not changed. The current fuss has arisen only because the Ghurkha campaign comes just as the government is attempting to persuade the electorate ahead of the election that it is taking voters’ concerns about immigration seriously.

The whole charade would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. Roll on the election and put an end to their nauseating ducking and weaving.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

Joanna is doing a marvellous job for these brave soldiers, something should have been done a long time ago, but well done Joanna, and yes she should be asking questions of the government why not?

Posted by Donna | Report as abusive


Having worked with Gurkhas, they are not freeloaders. When they are based in the UK they are injecting money into our economy, which seems to be a point that people gloss over. These guys are some of the hardest working, honest and reliable individuals on the planet, and given a choice I would rather kick you out this country than them.

I think that this is a very worthy cause and should be backed to hilt. Good job Joanna.

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

i agree it’s important to not allow every loud-mouth celbrity campaigner have too much inlfuence over government policy, but equally in this case it seems there aren’t really two sides to the argument – i.e. most people would tend to agree that not letting retired ghurkhas come to this country is a bit mean.

i suppose you get this sort of thing though in a democracy… so feel free to roll out those celebrities who would argue the governments point of view – and may the best man win :)

Posted by mark | Report as abusive

“But should an unelected lobbyist really be allowed to have such an influence on policy?”

We are all unelected lobbyists in so far as we all have an opinion and a vote. Whilst I realise the media impact of Joanna Lumley is a factor, the fact that the Ghurkhas have been fighting for our freedoms and liberty since the early 1800’s must be reason enough to support this cause.

We all pay tax, we all pay for what our govenment does and we all hope that the government does the right thing, hiding behind right wing views on immigration does not negate the fact that the government is elected and should be accountable to do the right thing.

Posted by JohnCCC | Report as abusive

Joanna Lumley for PM!

Posted by MB | Report as abusive

As with most policy issues at present the government is running in ever-decreasing circles in its scrabbling for votes and is in danger of disappearing up its own exhaust pipe. We are long overdue an election.

As for “unelected lobbyists” – if the government is so bereft of political integrity that it can’t see them off, let them prod away to their hearts content.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

The question is badly worded, probably deliberately so to provoke a reaction. The fact is that Joanna Lumley is not “dictating” anything. It’s just that on this as on almost every other issue one can think of, this government is in the wrong. Whenever this is brought home to them, they carefully weigh up whether the issue concerned is one on which they can make a hypocritical U-turn for maximum political advantage. This issue is one on which they calculate that they can. It won’t do them any good, but good luck to JL and the Gurkhas, who deserve to be recognised.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Joanna Lumley has made alot of people again feel proud to be British, she has cut through all the babble and gone straight to the heart of the matter, it would please alot of people if she were to enter Politics, she could achieve so much!! Go on Joanna give them hell!!

Posted by sean michael | Report as abusive

Without any doubt Joanna Lumley is doing a great job for those very brave men who have given their lives for this country.

She has great motivation,sincerity and determination and she deserves to succeed in her action against this weak and gutless Government who have wasted billions of taxpayers money bailing out the banks and yet will not provide for men who have put their lives on the line on numerous occassions. She is to be applauded for what she is doing and I for one wish her every success.

Posted by GORDON JACKSON | Report as abusive

Anyone for rational debate instead of emotional waffle?

I thought not.

I liked Joanna as Purdey. I don’t rate her for rational debate. Her case seems to be only that the Ghurkhas were her Daddy’s men and jolly good chaps too. But I still like her more than her thuggish sidekick who’s quite obviously out for every penny he can get.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

JohnCCC in case you hadn’t noticed, Gordon Brown is an UNELECTED Prime Minister. Surely a much worse problem than an unelected single issue lobbyist who will disappear into obscurity after her issue has been dealt with.

Posted by nick | Report as abusive

What an actor (actress) having polical power???

I thought that this only happened in US:
Arnie Schwarzenegger & Ronald Reagan ….

Joanna, stick to doing what you do best: comedy…etc

Posted by Allex | Report as abusive

As much as I admire the cause how can an actress suddenly start to dictate government policy this just shows how weak this government has become.

Posted by david mcdonald | Report as abusive

As the government of the day finds it diffcuilt to do the right things. Then I believe the people have a right to hold our elected officers responsible and that’s what Joanna Lumley is doning effectively.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

No need for all this fuss, they could all come in via Calais and get better treatment and no hassle.

Posted by phillip | Report as abusive

People’s emotions are without a doubt being manipulated in a very cynical manner. The question is whether Ms Lumley is a party to this or just a stooge. I suspect the latter: although she was the mouthpiece for the dodgy statistic (4,300 vs 100 men), she fluffed the explanation of it.

Thus, no matter how noble the cause (and how noble is it to secure a right which you know beforehand almost nobody will be able to afford to exercise?), it should not be allowed to succeed, or else it will open the floodgates for all future politics in the UK.

Why didn’t she just use her probable wealth and undoubted pulling power to secure funding for veterans’ hospitals in Nepal?

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

It’s 42 years since Harold Wilson called the end of the British Empire. So why is the UK still employing foreign mercenaries as part of its army?

The Ghurkhas may be excellent soldiers but the fact is that they are a remnant of history who remain a part of the British Army only because the MOD and successive governments have failed to drag themselves and the Armed Forces out of the colonial past and into the modern world.

The Ghurkha units do nothing that cannot be done by British soldiers and so should be disbanded immediately in an honourable manner. The question of what should happen to those who have retired will then start to resolve itself with immediate effect.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Miss Lumley rightly or wrongly is entitled to campaign on behalf of the Gurkas.However,I am at a loss as to their reason for wanting to settle here,except for the fact that they will be entitled to benefits,and that in my opinion is wrong.As I understand that the Law as it stands does not make such allowance,and nor should it make any,whether Gurkas or bogus assylum seekers.
In my view there are other more deserving crusades that miss Lumley could put her name to,other than putting unacceptable pressure on the gvernment,which working hard to get the Economy back on a sound basis.

Posted by Chris Jaggo | Report as abusive

Joanna Lumley is an “unelected lobbyist”? Don’t we call those either “citizens” or “voters” and isn’t it quite acceptable for them to lobby government officials?

Yes, celebrities shouldn’t replace politicians (as Arnold the Governator’s woes suggest) but why can’t they use a bit of star power to shame the government to do the right thing?

And couldn’t Nick Clegg use a shadow culture minister or something?

Posted by Kirby | Report as abusive

Good for her Isay. My only other thought is why does not the government respond to jo public the same way. They should lisen to all the people.

Posted by dave james | Report as abusive

Purdy behaves as if Great Britain was a company and she was the major shareholder and thus entitled to force the directors (Brown & Co) to change policies to please her, this is entirely wrong, if she has such strong feelings towards the Ghurkha issue then she should address the issue towards the general public via the media channels,
and should public opinion as a result veer in her favour then Brown & Co would have act accordingly in order to please the electorate i.e. democracy at work … but for Purdy/Patsy to assume that her own view on the matter is sufficient for the government to reverse a previous stated policy is quite frankly a bit barmy, and for Ministers including the Prime Minister to give so much attention to her including private meetings is an indication that they no longer have the respected status expected from a British Government, hopefully, an election will come soon, because the occupant of No.10 has become an embarrassment to our country.
In the meantime JL should return to what she does best playing Patsy on British TV.

Posted by nick | Report as abusive

I read of a Gurkha who was shot and order by his officer not to die

Posted by Ralph Spyer | Report as abusive

Ms. Lumley has ancestors who are Gurkha. Beside these Brave folks the best the British military defended the British Empire, many who died for the cause are entitled equal justice, equal rights, right of abode and all the benefits of British citizenship. The British Government enlisted these folks to be a part of their military, and there is still a British Gurkha Regiment all proper and trim, royal subjects of Her Majesty the Queen, that honor them with the highest honors of the Empire and British Military. In fact, there are more Gurkha’s with Victoria Crosses then any other British Regiment. Ms. Lumley like any other UK Citizen has the right to represent them and voice her activism. She just happens to be the right person at the right time.

The British immigration policy has always been discriminatory, and it is high time the England owns up to its obligations, what is morally right and what is due these brave loyal folks, that sacrificed much for UK.

The British Government with its biases, prejudices and down right racial discrimination has denied these brave men and their families their rights.

It appears that the British Government with moral prejudice is denying what is due these people who are legally part of the UK. This is not even a matter of immigration and nor are these people immigrants.

If the British Government considers them as hired guns and troops of the highest caliber that were available, then it should pay them accordingly. That is about a million pounds each lump sum, for services rendered and or what other British Military were paid, which include life time pensions and other benefit that other British Military families receive. No if and buts.

Posted by Jerath | Report as abusive

The Gurkhas represent & die for our country. To me that means they should be afforded the very best treatment (along with other ex servicemen).

Good for JL in representing them & lobbying their cause -I respect her for that. I hope they succeed, these honourable people would be a great addition to our multi-cultural society.

Posted by Nick Feasey | Report as abusive

Lumley for Prime Minister!

Posted by ivan | Report as abusive

The Ghurkas have fought and in many cases died for the people of this country over many years and still continue to do so.
I say let them stay in this country and continue to do what they have always done, fight the enemies of this country, The freeloaders, criminals and terrorists, this government seems so keen to encourage.

Well Done JL keep up the good work.

Posted by Keith Anderson | Report as abusive

Yes! joanna Lumley should be allowed to dictate Gurkha policy because it is the only way to gurantee fairness while redrafting new Gurkha policy.

Posted by san | Report as abusive

brown, should be ashamed of himself, his ministers are not fit for purpose, if they wer accountable they would all be sacked,”

joanna lumley is fantastic

and a real lady

well done in supporting the ghurkas.

Posted by joe | Report as abusive

Well done to Joanne, any chance you could visit Australia and work on our Government to recognise the extreme value of the Gurkhas.

Posted by Bill Healy | Report as abusive

All Ms Lumley did was use her considerable intelligence and public pull to bring to the attention of Parliament the fact that the British people disagreed with an immigration department policy. My grand-dad, God rest his soul, fought for Britain in WWII and often regaled my brother and me with tales of the brave Ghurka soldiers who fought for us. Their long history – 200 years of fighting for Britain – is not a small contribution and to try to disown our debt to them is small minded.
Personally I disagree that overturning the government’s view should be a blow to the government. It is in fact an affirmation of the Westminster process. The whole point of Parliament is that the MPs represent the view of the people in their constituency. If the people of GB rise up against a stated policy, the government must accept their take on it was wrong, and change it. Ms Lumley is not running the government, the people are, and that is right and proper. Good on JL and kudos to the media for their coverage. Shirley Naylor

Posted by ShirleyInOz | Report as abusive

Joanna is doing what she believes is right. However, it must be remembered that she has not served with Gurkhas and does not represent all Gurkhas.
We all know Gurkhas are very proud and I have spoken with Gurkhas who were appalled that people in the UK took up their fight. They believed that they had signed a contract, knowing the terms of the engagements, and did not seek to alter the bargain.
Nevertheless Joanna does represent ‘some’ views and it is her right to speak out for those Nepalese as it is the right of us all to speak out.
Should an actress hold such influence over Politicians or the debate as a whole? That is for the Politicians and ourselves to decide. I personally am nervous that because somebody appears on tv it means that they are able sway political debates to such an extent. I would have thought there are better placed experts to present the full facts, including the Gurkhas form both sides of the debate and the Nepalese Government.
And what of Nepal? Should we still continue to take the young males from a sovereign country to fight and die for ours because we cannot find the resources within our own borders? Is it right that we then tempt yet more from that coountry with promises of a better life in the UK after service? Would you chose to go back to Nepal if you were given the opportunity to stay in the UK on a full UK pension?
I think there is so much more to this debate than Joanna Lumley and I would like the BBC to concentrate a little more on the full facts and the full impact of what is being debated on all those Nepalese concerned rather than the fact that a tv star is hijacking the debate.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

Leave to the elected representative G Brown ??? when did he get elected ???

Posted by B.Wincott | Report as abusive

Well done for you helping the Gurkhas. We feel you would be much better in No.10 Downing Street than Gordon Brown.
If you are ever in Coniston The Lake District.Cumbria. We
would love to say well done in person.

Kindest regards,
Elizabeth & Anthony Robinson.
Coniston Lodge.
tel; 01539441201

Posted by Elizabeth & Anthony Robinson | Report as abusive

There is the question of money: the MOD has to factor in the long term cost of employing the Gurkhas, including a sufficient pension for retiring comfortably at home in Nepal, which they’d certainly rather do than move to dreary old England.
It is no good the MOD thinking that it can get such excellent soldiers on the cheap, and then leave the unfunded follow-up costs to local councils, NHS, benefits system etc.
Having added up all the real costs, the MOD may decide not to hire any more Gurkhas in future, so be careful what you wish for!

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

we live in a democracy and joanna lumley has the right to revolt

Posted by anthony williams | Report as abusive

I have seen our money wasted on Banks, MPs Expenses, etc.

From a morale stand point how can we not support Gurkhas living in our country. People who fight under the British flag should have the right to live here.
In regards MOD rethink well that’s for the future. What we are talking about is the here and now.
As a country we have always been known for our fair play and what is right. That is why we stood up against Hitler.
Whatever the cost, it is about doing the right thing. I challenge anyone to look in mirror and live with themselves if we turned our backs on them.

I can honestly say that I feel proud that Joanna Lumley has won. She probably doesn’t realise she is a true inspiration and I wish her every continued success.

The same cannot be said about our government who have been shameful in their actions and I am totally embarrassed to be even associated with them. All political parties need to take a long hard look at themselves. Bring back fair play, decency and we will get our pride back!
Right off my soap box.
A bit of Dalai Lama which I try to live upto but continually struggle with:-
Be kind where ever possible.
It is always possible.

Posted by Chris Perera | Report as abusive

I think this woman is a disgrace.
How on earth has she managed to bully our weak government into this ridiculous U-Turn is beyond me.

Its ok for someone who is rich and will not be affected at all by the possible arrival of 10’s of thousands of people, who just because a member of their family signed on the dotted line for our forces and then spent a mere 4 years working as a soldier, suddenly allows them the right to bring themslves and their dependants to this country… Big Deal. ***Remember No-one forced them to join…***

Look at the benefits they got for doing so, a huge monthly salary in relation to their own economy, a good lifestyle whilst in the forces, oh and not to forget a good pension, (again in relation to their fellow countrymen) for the longer serving ones….

I read that in the last year, 25% of all births registered in the UK were Immirgrant births… Who paid for all those NHS beds and treatment?

Who is going to pay for these gurkha families to re-house? To educate their children? To treat them and their families when they are ill? Of course it will be you and me, the average man in the street, plus of course they will be looking for work, jobs that just arent out there…That is of course, unless Ms Lumley is offereing to pay for them out of her own pocket….Instead of ours!

As I said at the beginning, Its yet another example of just how weak this government is, to allow itself to be bullyed by a washed up actress, who quite frankly could never really act.

Posted by Lee Edwards | Report as abusive

Is it time for Patsy to exit stage right and leave the issue to our elected representatives?????

excuse me, when did Mr Brown & Co become elected? If memory serves he sat on the sidelines while Mr Blair got himself elected and therefore mandate to govern before Mr Brown was gifted the top job.

Joanna Lumley is guilty of nothing more than having led a very public protest against the governments policies, one that she happened to win. No guns were held to ministers heads, no ministers were dragged from the thames complete with concrete boots and no minsters families threatened so i fail to see how she dictated anything.

The ‘government’ if that is the right word for the shower we have in Downing Street also felt the wrath of the house of commons in a defeat on the issue, led i believe by the lib dems and supported by politicans of all parties including labour MP’s.

Gordon Brown held a meeting with her because he clearly knew his government had made a serious error of judgement. As famous as Ms Lumley is i’m sure she would not have been able gain access to downing street by force.

Maybe if those critising Ms Lumley and the Gurkha’s, spent half as much effort campaigning for an ‘elected and competent’ government then they would not have cause to moan.

Well Done to Ms Lumley! A credit to whats left of this country.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive