The Conservative Party’s reluctance to discuss immigration received a fresh challenge today with the release of a YouGov opinion poll for MigrationWatch UK that found that 72% of Britons disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that "An amnesty should be granted to illegal immigrants in Britain." MigrationWatch estimates that an amnesty would cost the taxpayer at least £500m a year and would only encourage further illegal immigration. The Tories do not have an official policy on the amnesty idea but Damian Green MP, the party’s spokesman on the issue, told ConservativeHome that he was "very sceptical" about the idea’s merits.
YouGov also found that 75% of Britons agreed that there were too many immigrants coming into Britain. 55% agreed that Britain had changed for the worse because of immigration and "because something of our traditional culture has been lost".
Most commentators believe that the Conservative Party overplayed the immigration issue before the last General Election but there is now a danger that the Conservative Party is leaving the issue for more extreme parties to pick up. Labour MP Frank Field recently warned that the danger of Britain becoming a "global traffic station" for migrant workers needed to be addressed by mainstream parties before it was exploited by far-Right parties like the BNP. "It is only because the BNP are so inept that the debate has not taken off," he said.
2pm update – David Davis issued the following statement yesterday: "The
public have quite rightly reacted against the Government floating the
idea of an immigration amnesty for a very simple reason. Such an
amnesty would encourage more, not less, people to try and cross our
borders illegally in the hope of having their presence here legitimated
at some later date."