Lord Green is Chairman of MigrationWatch UK and a cross-bench peer.
In my article of 11 June I outlined why the present scale of immigration is so important to the future of our country. Meanwhile, polling of Conservative Party voters shows that an extraordinary 88 per cent of them support the present government’s policy of reducing net migration to tens of thousands a year.
So how have the candidates been able to duck any serious discussion of an issue that is so central to the future of our country? The short answer is that they are both “liberals” on immigration as, nowadays, is much of the press and certainly the BBC.
There is, of course, the argument that to make repeated vows to reach a certain outcome and then to keep failing to do so can only do more harm than good. The answer to that, surely, is to set an achievable target as a focus for policy and make sure that it is achieved.
Sadly, the Conservatives have gone down a much more dangerous route. They have outlined a post-Brexit immigration policy that could well run out of control, and are now “consulting” about 130 organisations – nearly all of which want to see more immigration.
In the party hustings Boris Johnson has left all this to one side. Instead, he has largely confined himself to proposing an “Australian-style’ points based system – unaware, apparently, that the UK has had such a system for nearly ten years, and that it has failed to control immigration. In any case, the Australian version is extremely complex, yet covers only 15 per cent of all migrants entering Australia.
The tough Australian approach to illegal immigration by “boat people” is a wholly different matter. While this might make an ‘Australian-style’ label popular in focus groups, it has nothing whatsoever to do with their points-based system or indeed their immigration policies in the round, which are intended to encourage very high levels of legal migration to boost the size of a very under-populated country – quite the opposite situation to our own.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt proposes to abandon the present net migration target of tens of thousands, reduce the general salary requirement of £30,000 needed to come to work in the UK, and introduce “flexible” immigration policies for different parts of the country. These, of course, can only increase the numbers still further.
So, to flush them out, I wrote to them both, as foreshadowed in my article on 13 June, asking whether it was their policy to achieve a substantial reduction in net migration and, more specifically, whether they would set an objective of net migration of even 150,000 a year.
Hunt provided a careful response reiterating the policies outlined above, but with no mention of a target nor of a substantial reduction – just “continued work” to bring the numbers down to “sustainable levels” (undefined, of course). Yet the policies he mentioned are very likely to increase immigration rather than decrease it. As for Boris Johnson – no response. Either he and his staff are too disorganised, or he is keeping his head down, perhaps hoping Conservative Party members will simply fail to notice he has said nothing of substance on one of the most pressing of their concerns.
All this is bad news for those who value the society that we have inherited from our forbears and who see the country changing before their eyes. The Conservatives, of all people, will have failed them. If so, it will be left to the Brexit Party to provide the only beacon for the opposition to mass immigration which is very much alive across the country.