Patrick O’Flynn Patrick O’Flynn

Will Starmer let Sunak off the hook again over immigration?

(Credit: Getty images)

Despite the Conservatives having broken all their promises to bring down immigration volumes for 13 years in a row, conventional wisdom has it that migration is Labour’s Achilles’ heel. However high the Tories have allowed immigration to go, the public has generally suspected that Labour would push it still higher. Brits have long memories about the party ‘sending out the search parties’ for immigrants under Tony Blair – nor have they forgotten Gordon Brown’s dumbfounded reaction to the migration scepticism of the redoubtable Gillian Duffy on the campaign trail in 2010.

This week is likely to see the collapse of that popular prejudice – not because of anything active that Labour has done to allay it, but because of the mind-boggling levels to which the Tories have raised immigration.

Net migration in the year to December 2022 is expected to be confirmed at above 700,000, some 200,000 more than the record 504,000 that was recorded in the year to June 2022 – and seven times the upper target launched by David Cameron before the 2010 election of net migration being limited to the ‘tens of thousands’.

The Tories have left him a wide and undefended front to attack

Boris Johnson abandoned that ambition when he was prime minister. Now Rishi Sunak has effectively ditched Johnson’s 2019 manifesto target of getting the overall annual volume of net immigration down below the 214,000 it was running at when the last election was fought. Sunak will only say he wants to get legal immigration down from the astronomic level he has inherited from Johnson, while continuing to insist it is illegal immigration that bothers the public far more.

From Labour’s point of view, the temptation must be just to stand back and let the Conservatives face the full wrath of their core voters and of the Red Wall voters who defected to them in 2019.

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