Still obsessed with fighting a battle that it has already won — the struggle to “decontaminate the Tory brand” to an extent sufficient to ensure that the party’s ideas are not howled down before being heard — Britain’s Conservative leadership continues to downplay the issue of immigration. Reasonably enough, Conservative Home’s Tim Montgomerie compares this to “leaving Wayne Rooney on the bench.” Football, er, “soccer” fans will understand.
There is, of course, also the worry that this peculiar diffidence stems not from political calculation, however misplaced, but from ideology. Are there individuals in the Tory hierarchy who are unable to accept the damage that the open-door policy of the Blair-Brown years has done?
Quite possibly. That concern is something that makes recent comments from one leading member of the Cameron team all the more welcome:
We have to bring down the level of net immigration to a more sustainable level. So the open door to Britain of Labour’s thirteen years in Government will end if a Conservative Government is elected in May. There will be an annual limit on the number of people given work permits for the UK. And our priority will be to attract those with the biggest contribution to make to our society – as investors, as inventors and as highly skilled additions to our workforce. There will be language tests for spouses seeking to come and live in the UK. If you can’t speak our language, how can you possibly play a part in life here? There will be tougher rules to stamp out abuses of the student visa system. The Government has admitted that student visas have been the biggest weakness in our border controls. We want to continue to attract students from around the world to our universities and colleges, but a student visa should not be seen as a permanent entry visa.So we will have a system of deposits for most overseas students coming to study at colleges in the UK. Deposits which will be lost if they overstay their visas.
Montgomerie has excerpts from those remarks, and also links to this Daily Telegraph piece by the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson, which includes the following:
When Gordon Brown launched the election campaign by insisting that he would “tell the truth”, it was clear that he intended no such thing. His campaigning style is to pick a falsehood and repeat it. Eventually, interviewers grow tired of correcting him and his message is hammered into the electorate’s subconscious. Yesterday, he produced a figure that he would like us all to know: that even after the recession, some 2.5 million jobs have been created since 1997. His economic stewardship, therefore, has been a triumph after all.
His problem lies in the word “created”. A better one would be “imported”. Unpublished figures sent on request to The Spectator show that 98.5 per cent of jobs created for working-age people since Labour came to power are accounted for by immigration. Britain’s boom was great news for the unemployed of Gdansk, but failed to transform Glasgow. And this cuts to the heart of what is, arguably, the greatest and most deplorable of Brown’s economic failures: failing to find (as he memorably put it) British jobs for British workers…Mass immigration gave Labour the option not to deal with welfare reform. The party took it, and the result can be seen in the welfare ghettoes of Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow – and in the Babel-like atmosphere of the Olympic village, with workers from around the world, but local unemployment as high as ever.
Food for thought.