When former Archbishops start calling for stricter controls on immigration you know something is up. As the table above demonstrates, Britain has a big immigration problem and none of the main political parties are really addressing the issue. Max Hastings writes about the issue in today’s Mail:
"I am an admirer of Tory leader David Cameron. But it seems extraordinary that he scarcely opens his mouth about a subject which alarms most British people vastly more than Iraq, the environment or Europe… Cameron is scarred by the memory of the Tories’ fate at the 2005 election, after Michael Howard talked tough about immigration. I do not believe that had anything to do with Howard’s defeat, but the Cameron camp think they did."
There wasn’t too much wrong with the substance of Michael Howard’s 2005 message. What was wrong was that Michael Howard wasn’t liked enough to be trusted with the message and he gave it too much volume. His message was also unbalanced. There was very little from Michael Howard’s Tories on international justice issues. A tough-on-immigration only stance was therefore portrayed by opponents as harsh and a product of a Little England mentality.
David Cameron is widely seen as a decent man and he is in a position to talk about border protection with more authority and success than his predecessor. Addressing international justice issues in a more prominent way would also demonstrate that the party is concerned about the world beyond Dover. Although David Cameron has been to Darfur and raised the issue intermittently he has not communicated a sufficient degree of urgency or passion. He should look across the Channel and follow the example of President Sarkozy. Since becoming President, Sarkozy has appointed the founder of Médecins sans Frontières as his foreign minister. That signal of humanitarian intent was followed up yesterday by the Paris conference on Darfur. At that conference Sarkozy was characteristically direct. "Silence is killing," he said. For the first time for a long time there is now hope that something might be done in Darfur.
Ten days ago I wrote about my vision of a more progressive Conservative Party. Such a party – if David Cameron really invested in creating it – would find it much easier to address issues like immigration. Up until now we are making the right noises on environmental and justice issues but voters are yet to be convinced that we are serious. This summer’s policy review groups must help to show that we are.