Fraser Nelson

The immigration battle

The immigration battle
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Why is Vince Cable kicking off about immigration? Sure, to cause trouble – this is what he sees as his role. His ego can’t quite fit in that department. But the pledge to have immigration in the “tens of thousands” was not in the coalition agreement. At the time, David Cameron said this was an oversight and that it was still government policy. But as James said in his political column in the magazine, a great divide has emerged between policies in that bald coalition agreement and those mentioned verbally. The policies in the documents are now deemed sacrosanct, and things not in it – like the extraordinary pledge to take immigration to the tens of thousands – are up for negotiation. So what else is up for negotiation? The only list in existence comparing the Tory manifesto to the coalition agreement has been produced by your loyal baristas at CoffeeHouse and is here. It may very well turn into a list of future battlegrounds.

By the way, I regard Cameron’s immigration pledge as being radical to the point of unworkable. I don’t believe any minister has a clue about how we would more than halve net immigration, and the pledge exposes a lack of attention to this very important topic. When Clegg preposterously claimed in the election debates that 80 percent of immigration to Britain was from the EU, Cameron stood there silent. Anyone who has spent time studying the issue of British immigration in the last ten years knows that it’s closer to 33 percent. And this isn’t an issue of statistical knowledge, but basic common sense. If Clegg was right, and 80 percent of immigration was from the EU, then there’s no point talking about an immigration policy because there’s nothing we can do about it. Cameron is a hugely able Prime Minister, but I do fear that he’s being badly briefed on policy, by people who think such details don’t matter.