Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

There’s no one to vote for if you want controlled immigration

Credit: No. 10 Flickr

There has been much Tory huffing and puffing about the ONS revising 2022 net migration to 745,000, up from its previous estimate of 606,000. James Heale has documented their dismay. Conservative MPs are a journalist’s dream: they don’t do much but they’re always quick off the mark with a statement lamenting all the things they’ve not done. 

You will have read this story before. The Conservatives pledge to crack down on immigration, immigration goes up, and the Tories announce that they’re jolly cross about it. Boy, just you wait till they get into government. Oh how things will be different then. 

Every election the Conservative party has won in the last 40 years it has done so on a manifesto promising controlled or reduced immigration. In 1983, it was a pledge to ‘maintain effective immigration control’; in 1987, ‘firm but fair immigration controls’; and in 1992, ‘immigration controls which are fair, understandable and properly enforced’. 

Tory manifesto language had hardened significantly by 2010, when the manifesto drawn up by those nice Notting Hill Tories declared that immigration was ‘too high and needs to be reduced’. Reduced by how much? ‘Back to the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands.’ 

Five years later, the Conservatives went to the country promising: ‘We will continue to cut immigration from outside the EU.’ In 2017, immigration was ‘still too high’ and would be reduced ‘to sustainable levels’, which was once again defined as ‘the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands’. 

Then came the 2019 election. Once Brexit was done, the Conservative manifesto announced, ‘we can decide who comes to this country’. That would mean: ‘There will be fewer lower-skilled migrants and overall numbers will come down.’

Narrator: overall numbers did not come down.

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