Conservative Diary

« The traditional centre right press has probably been lost to the Tories. Forever. | Main | Why the Government's new childcare scheme is unfair to stay-at-home parents »

Cameron toughens his position on immigration but is he serious about the issue?

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Tighter and tighter caps on welfare.

An In/Out referendum.

A penny off the price of beer.

A review of Britain's membership of the ECHR.

And, today, no council houses for new immigrants.

You'd almost think the Tory Party was in election mode. In fact it is. Read Grant Shapps on ConservativeHome this morning.

Today's latest attempt by the Prime Minister to tackle the disillusionment of his party's base vote comes with a pledge to get tougher still on immigration. Theresa May has so far delivered a one-third reduction in net immigration but Number 10 is worried that voters will not remember that achievement if there is a new influx of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria. Concerns about immigration were the number one policy area - not Europe - that drove Eastleigh's voters into UKIP's hands.

Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 09.25.53In a big speech on immigration tomorrow the PM will promise to stop immigrants accessing social housing until they've been in Britain for up to five years. He'll also argue that visitors to Britain should be charged to use a GP. The Mail on Sunday, the BBC and Sun are among nearly every media outlet to preview the PM's speech.

All opinion polls suggest that such initiatives would be hugely popular with voters but the same opinion polls also find that voters doubt politicians' ability or determination to deliver on them. Our ability to control immigration is limited by our membership of the European Union and politicians' determination to limit immigration seems to grow as elections approach and diminish once the votes are safely gathered in.

If Cameron is serious about immigration then he must ensure that he gives more than a speech tomorrow. He must tell Cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove and David Willetts - as well as LibDems like Vince Cable - that control of the nation's borders is a personal priority of his and Theresa May deserves their full co-operation. He must also campaign consistently on the issue. When he's talked about immigration one hundred times voters might start believing him. The same is true of his In/Out referendum pledge. Conservative HQ sometimes gives the impression that it is only necessary for a policy to be launched for it to be believed.

Let's also be careful not to revert to a heavy emphasis on the unbalanced messages of 2005. The party also needs persistent messages on economic recovery, the NHS and help for the low-paid and vulnerable. We need full orchestra conservatism.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.