THE Conservatives are in trouble. Current polling would see them lose the next general election to Labour. The Tories need to rediscover their winning game. Fortunately there is a clear path to uniting the grassroots and guaranteeing victory.
Polls consistently show immigration ranks as the top concern for Tory voters – miles ahead of any other issue. Johnson and Patel have been a disgrace, opening the door ever wider for legal and illegal immigrants alike. Their public ratings on handling immigration are the lowest ever recorded.
Immigration ties in with everything else. Tackling immigration helps you tackle NHS waiting lists, housing shortages, inequality, public service delivery, pollution, net zero, the culture wars and the environment. Mass immigration has made these problems moving targets that get harder and harder to reach.
Sorting immigration is the one thing that can reverse the sense of betrayal among Red Wall voters. They were willing to give the Tories a try because of Brexit; now they feel they have been taken for a ride.
What is needed is a complete fix, backed by a good slogan. Dominic Cummings was right that appealing to the public requires one simple message at a time. ‘Get Brexit Done’ was enough to win Boris Johnson the biggest majority in a generation. I suggest ‘Fix Immigration Now’.
This would involve a binding pledge guaranteeing three things:
1 Balanced immigration: that means one-in-one-out immigration.
2 All applications to enter, live or extend a stay in the UK would have to be completed and approved from non-UK territory. Foreign students would have to go home after their degree and asylum seekers would have to apply from elsewhere.
3 Repatriation of all immigration matters to Westminster. That means a complete end to judicial activism, international and devolved law making. This is the ‘take back control’ we were promised after Brexit.
This could be backed up with more vote-winning promises such as restrictions on foreign house buyers and limited access to state health and education for non-UK nationals, plus instant, non-appealable deportation on conviction for a crime.
As with Brexit, ‘Fix Immigration Now’ needs to emphasise finality: a once-and-for-all sustainable solution, with no more tinkering. In today’s world of fire-fighting politics, a permanent fix to a long-term problem will cut through.
Turning the next election into an immigration referendum would plunge all the other parties into chaos. It would expose their contradictions, open up political fault-lines and trigger internal civil wars.
To make the Labour party unelectable, the best thing the Conservatives could do would be to reopen the Brexit fissure between Old Labour and New Labour. The immigration debate amplifies the sense of betrayal that old Labour voters feel, and the sense that the Labour party hates the majority of its voters. Old Labour understands the burden immigration places on public services, the NHS, housing. It has experienced how immigration hurts low-income communities.
Immigration also exposes the Liberal Democrats as a massive fraud. The Lib Dem resurgence has been driven by their opposition to house building and infrastructure projects that damage local communities and natural environments. By calling out their support for mass immigration, this is all exposed as a massive contradiction: how can you invite millions in and not build anywhere for them to live?
The SNP fare no better. In contrast to Scottish government rhetoric, polls consistently find Scots are even more opposed to immigration than those South of the border. Hitherto, Nicola Sturgeon has been able to conceal this truth. Her pro-immigration stance is tolerated because it is viewed as undermining Westminster. A nationwide debate on immigration would expose this fault line. The Tories could even call the SNP’s bluff: if they’re so keen, why not offer to process and resettle all illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in Scotland? See how that goes down in the SNP heartlands!
As for the smaller parties, Ukip, Reform and Reclaim voters are even more opposed to immigration than Tory voters. If the Tories tackle the issue head on, they are redundant. At the other end of the spectrum are the Greens. Something true environmentalists increasingly understand is that environmentalism is incompatible with population growth and population density. People need space to live, and that space has to be taken from nature. There is no way the UK can meet its environmental targets if the target is constantly moving further into the distance. It is virtue-signalling gesture politics, and that is what an immigration debate would expose.
A tough and democratic stance on immigration is the one issue that can unite the Blue Wall and the Red Wall with the bonus of plunging the opposition parties into chaos. Having broken his promises too many times Boris Johnson is not the man for the job. But whoever succeeds him should not need reminding that the Conservative Party exists to govern responsibly and win elections. That means putting immigration front and centre. It’s time to ‘Fix Immigration Now’!