Yvette Cooper today reiterated her pledge to scrap the Tories' net migration target as she addressed the Labour conference. Her speech contained the obligatory admission about their party's past mistakes that Cooper and her colleagues must repeat whenever they talk about immigration, but the Shadow Home Secretary also suggested that the current government is still getting things wrong. She said:
'Yes, Labour got things wrong on immigration – on transitional controls for Eastern Europe, on the impact of jobs, but look at what this government is doing now. David Cameron promised "no ifs no buts" he would meet his net migration target. Theresa May boasted last year that her progress on her target was "an achievement to be proud of".
'Yet net migration is the same now when they came to office. Their target is in tatters.'
The net migration target was always, for reasons repeatedly outlined on Coffee House, not a terribly clever idea, even though it sounded nice and tangible when David Cameron proposed it. And George Osborne accepted that the Conservatives would fail to meet it without EU reform in an interview with the Sun on Sunday in June. So it is not difficult for Labour to say that it would scrap the target as it is discredited. Any attempt to scrap something that was working would be very difficult for the party indeed.
Cooper's speech was excellent. It was well-written, with powerful images and a forceful delivery. It is almost as if the Labour conference has saved the best till last. Although many might remark that the two Shadow Cabinet members most interested in leading the party in the future were the two who poured the most into their speeches.
UPDATE: It's not just conference attendees who appreciated the speech. The IoD (not normally full of praise for Ed Miliband's camp) has issued a press release saying Yvette Cooper's speech shows that 'Labour get it on immigration’.