HOW many times in the past few months have we heard politicians and commentators, and those who benefit from high levels of immigration, say that the public is no longer bothered about the very high levels of immigration that this country continues to experience?
Notwithstanding what we have been repeatedly told, the survey has found that nearly two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) agree that recent levels of overseas net migration to the UK are a source of major concern for the public. Fewer than a quarter (22 per cent) disagree.
So why has immigration not been given the prominence in the election campaign that the public clearly believe it merits? Admittedly, as the campaign has worn on and the politicians have knocked on doors in search of votes, it has dawned on them that the electorate are not going to be fobbed off with vague commitments from one lot and flim-flam from the other (I am of course referring to the Tories and Labour).
The poll also helps explain why the public understand what the politicians appear reluctant to accept. Those who thought immigration levels to be a major public concern cited pressure on the NHS and pressure on schools as the top reasons. Others included competition for jobs, the environment and the changing nature of society. In Wales, the changing nature of society was selected by 70 per cent of respondents in the sample.
There were some stark variations in the poll. For example, among those supporting particular parties, 75 per cent of Conservative voters thought the average annual level of net migration that the UK has experienced over the past five calendar years was a ‘substantial concern’ for the public. It may come as a surprise to to some, but not to me, that 62 per cent of Labour voters and 53 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters felt the same.
Looking at constituencies, and doubtless noteworthy for party HQs, 67 per cent in Labour-held marginals agreed that the level of immigration of the last five years was a ‘substantial concern’; this was also true of 61 per cent of those in Conservative-held marginals. Overall, 64 per cent of respondents in marginal seats agreed on ‘substantial concern’.
The regions where most voters agreed it to be a concern were Wales (69 per cent) and the Midlands (68 per cent). Indeed, 65 per cent of Londoners (who would have thought it?) and even 60 per cent of respondents in Scotland agreed: not what the SNP leadership would have you believe.
As for what this election is supposed to be about, 52 per cent of Remain voters were of this view and so were 81 per cent of Leave voters. Those who were concerned formed a majority of all age-groups – even 53 per cent of 18-24-year-olds who took part in the survey.
Why do people sense this concern regarding the immigration and what underlies it? Well, 81 per cent named pressure on the NHS. In Conservative-held marginal seats it was 91 per cent and 92 per cent among the 55-64 age group. In Wales, it was 92 per cent and in the North of England, 86 per cent.
Inevitably, when writing about polls and surveys there is a need to refer to numbers, which I regret, because what we are really looking at is not just numbers and percentages but people. Indeed, this was the main reason for commissioning the poll: to draw attention to how the public feels about and perceives the impact of high immigration.
The political class has for so long believed it knows what is best for us that it has increasingly assumed that we are happy to go along with whichever policy they throw at us.
When they repeatedly fail to keep promises made in election campaigns, rather than considering why they have failed and redoubling their efforts, they simply turn their backs on commitments accepted in good faith by the electorate. That is not good enough.
Ordinary people feel the pressures that derive from mass immigration. That is why 80 per cent of respondents pointed to pressure on the NHS, because, according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of annual registrations by those from overseas increased by 100,000 during the past decade.
And yes, while our population is ageing, immigration has added a million to it every three years (see our paper here). How can such growth not have an impact on or put pressure on the NHS? In 2017/18 there was, on average, a new GP registration by someone from overseas every minute, and there are well over half a million such registrations each year.
These are the reasons why, O politicians, you have to commit to reducing immigration. That doesn’t mean stopping it or driving out people with every right to be here (although it does mean stepping up enforcement and properly resourcing the border so that we are not taken for mugs by those who have no compunction about abusing our largesse).
You have to come up with policies that will make this possible. If you think you will get away with avoiding or by proffering half-hearted policies on what remains a critically important issue for the electorate, you are grossly mistaken.
Our poll findings pour ice-cold water on such an approach and show how out of touch you are with the voters.
My question to the two main aspirants for the keys to No 10 is: Do either of you have the nous or bottle to commit to giving the public what it wants, a substantial reduction in immigration?