A new YouGov poll for MigrationWatch has found overwhelming support for an annual limit on immigration. Only 10% of voters think that the Government is listening to voter concerns on the issue. The recent finding that there is a backlog of up to 283,500 failed asylum seekers waiting to be ‘removed’ from Britain will have only fuelled voter exasperation.
This is an important poll for the Conservatives as David Cameron develops his "modern" and "compassionate" agenda. Whilst it is true that the younger respondents to the YouGov poll are less sceptical about immigration than older voters (Download pdf of full findings), the electorate still wants ‘controlled immigration’ and the party will neglect this yearning at its peril.
As the party moves ConservativeHome offers three reflections on Tory immigration and asylum policy at the last General Election…
(1) The cap on asylum numbers was the only substantial policy weakness of Tory policy. A cap would have been unacceptable if a humanitarian crisis developed. David Cameron has already shown that he understands that Conservatives must make a more generous distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants. The centrist Damian Green has been appointed to the shadow immigration post in a sign that Mr Cameron understands the importance of getting the tone right on this explosive issue.
(2) The crude ‘It’s not racist’ billboard advertisements offended the many middle class voters who agreed with the substance of Tory policy but wanted a more persuasive reassurance (permission) that it was not pandering to base motives.
(3) There was no balance to Tory policy as ConservativeHome wrote at the time: "Newspaper ads have showcased immigration policy but neglected the Conservative Party’s policies on international development." Immigration policy is a classic example of where the ‘politics of and‘ can be applied. Here is the kind of balanced policy Conservatives could move to:
"Rapid deportation of false asylum seekers would free up more resources to provide safe haven for refugees in genuine fear for their lives. In addition, adoption of Australia’s system of work permits would ensure that wider immigration serves Britain’s real economic and social needs. But at the same time that Britain closes its borders to large-scale immigration it should fully open its hearts and minds to the poorest people of the world. Open hearts will mean year-on-year increases in development expenditure to feed hungry children and treat people dying from treatable diseases. Open minds will mean that spending is channeled through development charities with proven records of getting assistance to needy people. Corrupt, authoritarian governments shouldn’t receive a penny from the British taxpayer. Aid should reward developing nations that are aspiring to stand on their own feet by freeing up markets and investing in the education and welfare of their people."