By Tim Montgomerie
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Both the Mail and Sun give prominence today to a new ePetition launched by MigrationWatch. The petition calls for the Government "to take all necessary steps to get immigration down to a level that will stabilise our population as close to the present level as possible". Last week estimates suggested British population was heading towards seventy million in less than twenty years. Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch notes that "this is equivalent to seven cities the size of Birmingham or 14 times Bristol or Manchester."
In a joint article for The Sun, Tory MP Nicholas Soames and Labour MP Frank Field warn David Cameron that he hasn't taken enough action to fulfil his promise to reduce net immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. They encourage readers to sign the petition in the hope that it will send a strong signal to the "foot-dragging Lib Dems" that the public want action. There is certainly more that the Government can do. Cameron, for example, stopped the Home Office imposing work restrictions on students.
Immigration nearly always comes near the top of opinion polls that test the importance of issues to the public but getting signatures on ePetitions has proved harder than some people had expected. Guido Fawkes' petition in favour of a death penalty debate is barely a fifth of the way towards the 100,000 threshold, for example. An ePetition on leaving the EU – heavily promoted by the Express – is still short of 40,000 signatures. Only four petitions have so far crossed the 100,000 trigger and one of those – on fuel prices – has so far been denied a debate.
Nonetheless the Mail encourages its readers to sign the petition and says last week's EU referendum debate shows that real good can flow from the process:
"After last week’s disgraceful three-line whip on the EU referendum debate, cynics may wonder how much good these petitions can do. Yet even that farce has achieved something by bringing home to David Cameron the strength of feeling in the Tory Party and the country on the need to curb EU powers. Indeed, even the BBC has been unable to ignore it."
The petition is waiting for your signature here.