Douglas Hansen-Luke runs his own business, and is Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Walsall North.
It is not unusual for a party to get a policy wrong, lose the support of the electorate, and fall from power. What is unusual is to get the policy right, to be making progress…and to still not succeed. We’re so right – and yet we remain so silent.
We are doing a lot on immigration. We are getting results and we have the right policies. Thank God we now understand that its time to talk immigration, too – but after hiding from it for so long, we’re also going to have to prove our words and actions if they’re to have any effect at all.
For too long, our Party has held back on the issue of immigration, for fear of being labeled once again the “Nasty Party” or of being out-flanked by UKIP. If we continue to be silent on the issue that tops voters’ list of concerns, then of course they’re going to think that we’re out of touch. Of course they will then engage and listen to what other parties say.
To date, our most effective campaigners on immigration and Europe have been Sajid Javid and Sayed Kamall. It’s no coincidence that, free from accusations of racism, these two have been prepared to say what is clear to so many. Immigration has run out of control – and a large part of the reason is our universal rather than contributory benefits system.
Sajid and Sayed are able to speak the common sense that we all want to hear: that the first duty of Government is to its own people. We want new citizens that will contribute and enhance our nation’s life and economy and who respect our values. Immigration needs to strengthen a country and not weaken it. This is not racist and, by consistently saying this, we can win the general election. For who, whether UKIP, Labour or Liberal, can successfully argue against these most basic British principles?
My mother came from Norway; my father is of British Indian ancestry. They both came to Britain in the sixties and worked in the NHS. They came because they wanted a better life, and they came because they loved Britain and what it stood for.
British history has been built upon immigration, and we should forever be open to welcoming the best and the brightest that the world has to offer. Notwithstanding the rain, the cold and the grey skies, we’ve had people immigrating to Britain since Roman times because we, as a nation, understand and manage newcomers and differences better than most. Yet when I talk to my parents, when I listen to Polish post-war immigrants or to qualified non-EU professionals, they all think we’ve lost the plot.
Well, have we? Should we be embarrassed about our policies and results to date? Is that why until now we’ve been so silent on immigration?
Our Policy Solution
Actually, I think the answer is “No.” Our key policies make sense and are supported in opinion polls by the electorate.
We say that we’re not happy with current EU immigration policy. The electorate agree. We say that EU citizens and other immigrants should contribute to the system before receiving benefits and public services. The electorate agree. We believe that efforts to raise the standard of English amongst all migrants should be taken. And once again, so do the electorate.
We’ve also promised a referendum on Europe, we’ve reinforced and improved “best and brightest” immigration scoring for non-EU arrivals, and we’ve changed the rules for EU migrants so no one can come to this country and expect to get out-of-work benefits immediately.
Our policies are popular and reflect the views of the majority of the electorate. The difficulty is that we’re not talking about them enough and results are not being clearly seen.
When you’ve been outmaneuvered on the rhetoric, results matter
So what have the results been so far? Using that horrible term that we’ve all grown to dislike, “net” immigration is indeed down 25 per cent since its 2005 peak under Labour. Non-EU net immigration at 50,000 is at levels not seen since the late 1990s.
We’ve closed 750 bogus schools and are continuing the fight against false schools, sham marriages and fake testing centres. Citizens bringing non-British spouses in to the country have to have sufficient income or assets to be able to support them. It is now harder for illegal immigrants to get driving licenses and bank accounts and it’s easier to deport them too. Language tests have been introduced for non-EU immigrants and councils have been told to reduce spending on translation services.
Temporary visitors have to pay to use the NHS and local authorities have to show that those applying for housing are genuine British residents. EU and non-EU applicants for unemployment benefits have to prove real efforts to find work.
Most importantly, reforming the benefits for our own citizens is making a difference. Before, immigrants took the majority of new jobs resulting from economic growth. In the last year, British nationals have accounted for two-thirds of the rise in employment. Capping benefits has made a huge difference, as has our expectation that those on benefits should actively engage in looking for work.
Of course, more can and should be done: from securing our borders and reducing in-work benefits for non-nationals, to positive progress at the local level. But these are long term in nature, and require a Conservative majority with the vision and ability to be successfully implemented.
Breaking Our Silence
These facts about our work on immigration are genuine but they are not believed. Going forward, what can we say that will convince people that we really are serious about immigration?
There are two immediate, costless and politically smart things we should be doing right now.
1. Take the Pledge. Every single Conservative candidate should say and commit to the “In/Out Referendum.” The Prime Minister has already said he’ll resign if he doesn’t deliver a referendum whilst in control of a majority. Every Conservative MP, MEP and candidate should say the same. The electorate may not believe our leader speaking on his own but they will believe a united and unanimous Party.
2. Show the Results. Every case of deportation, of social housing applications turned down, and of payment for health services demanded should be recorded. We should continually be challenging councils and other social service providers as to why our tougher rules aren’t being implemented on the ground.
In short, we need to show that we care, because we do care. We need to show that we understand and mean what we say on immigration. Above all we need to show that we’ve the courage to deliver on this issue and in doing so to keep Britain safe, tolerant and prosperous.