Isabel Hardman

Nigel Farage’s immigration deluge hasn’t arrived. But it doesn’t matter.

Nigel Farage's immigration deluge hasn't arrived. But it doesn't matter.
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So Nigel, where's your flood? You know, the one involving Bulgarians and Romanians that you predicted last year. That deluge? You got it wrong, didn't you? Ner-ner-di-ner-ner.

It must be very tempting for people who don't like Nigel Farage to spend today chuckling, scrolling through the ONS website and waving their mouse with a satisfied flourish at the finding that the number of people from these countries who are employed in the UK has risen by 13,000 from the same period last year, when transitional controls were still in place.

The Ukip leader had predicted 5,000 a week, but his forecasts look as good as David Silvester's attempts at dabbling in meteorology. It has given Farage's critics another opportunity to accuse him of 'scaremongering'. Presumably Keith Vaz is also wondering when would be a good moment to point out that it was his personal patrolling of the border on New Year's Day that solved the crisis. When will Farage admit he's wrong?

This game will continue for a while: there will enough releases from the Office for National Statistics to keep everyone happy. But even if Farage turns out to be entirely wrong about the 'deluge', he's unlikely to be staring dolefully at the latest figures while his critics chuckle with glee. And this is because however many migrants from Bulgaria and Romania turn up, Farage has already won.

He'd won before the transitional controls had even been lifted at the end of 2013. Voters were already unhappy about immigration: they didn't need more migrants to persuade them that they wanted to hear more from Westminster after being ignored for too long. Farage sent the political classes into a spin, announcing tougher and tougher measures to crack down on benefit tourism and other things that aren't actually a massive problem but which are the only way politicians in the European Union can look tough on EU migration. It's not just that he spent 2013 making the Tories squeal with fear, but he's seen Labour and the Lib Dems toughen up their policies on immigration too. He doesn't need the numbers: he's already got what he wanted: influence in Westminster without even holding a Parliamentary seat.