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By Peter Hoskin
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Take
a run through this morning’s papers, and you’ll clatter into this
story
in the Mail on Sunday. It details a ‘secret Chequers summit’ that
will be attended, later this week, by the ‘Fab four’ of David Cameron, George
Osborne, Ed Llewellyn and Lynton Crosby. Apparently, this summit will focus on
party strategy for 2015 – in particular, Mr Crosby’s notion that ‘curbing
immigration and abuse of state hand-outs is key to winning the Election’.

Mr
Crosby, it should be admitted, is no slouch when it comes to winning elections
– and there are reasons, both practical and political, to curb immigration and benefits
abuse. I won’t rattle off all of the problems with the welfare and immigration systems
here, except to say that many of them are encapsulated by the
report in today’s Sun
about Anjem Choudary and his exhortation to claim “Jihad
Seeker’s Allowance”. And then there are all the column
inches
expended on migration from Romania and Bulgaria, which is set to be one
of the fiercest political issues
of the year.

Besides,
opinion polls suggest that some Crosby-approved policies go down well with the
public. A recent
digest by the Migration Observatory
revealed that three-quarters of people
want to see immigration cut. Measures such as the benefits cap remain soaringly
popular.


But
the Tory leadership still ought to be wary about where this might lead. Take immigration:
as Nadhim Zahawi has argued,
there is actually a case for lifting some of the restrictions imposed by the
Government, particularly when it comes to foreign students. I shall be writing
about this at greater length in the not-too-distant, so suffice to say, for
now, that the decline in student visas threatens to suck £billions from our
economy and £millions from our universities. It will be Brits who suffer, more
than anyone else, as this money emigrates elsewhere.

And
where benefits are concerned, the party should resist falling back on lazy
and pernicious rhetoric
about “shirkers” and “scroungers”. Not only does
this overlook the broader truth of the situation, as Greg Clark has recently
written for
ConservativeHome
. It also denies the moral impetus behind Iain Duncan Smith’s
welfare reforms, which is to help the workless back into the labour market. David
Cameron would do better to remember the words of his 2009 conference speech: “it
falls to us, the modern Conservative party to fight for the poorest who [Labour] have let down.”

And
there is a more general concern, too. Mr Cameron recently
told his MPs
that the Tories’ focus at the next election will be on
aspiration and on “raising the nation up”. This can certainly overlap with a
tough line on welfare dependency; less obviously so with immigration. But there’s
a risk that an essentially positive message will be muddied, perhaps even
overwhelmed, by something more negative.

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