David Cameron is already going to struggle to hit his target of taking net migration from 250,000 to the tens of thousands. But I understand that the Home Office is nervous that other Whitehall departments could undermine that target further, seeing immigration as one sinew that could be strained as they begin to panic about growth. Look closely, and you can see an inter-governmental battle being fought.
Theresa May and Damian Green have been on manoeuvres today, highlighting the government’s progress in cutting net migration. The Home Secretary has an op-ed in The Sun on Sunday, where she also lists some of the areas which have been tightened to ‘make life in the UK much more uncomfortable’ for illegal immigrants. Meanwhile Green appeared on LBC Radio, where he described ‘a real failure of mainstream politics’ under Labour which led to immigration never falling below 150,000 a year, while discussing the subject became ‘almost impolite’.
Both re-stated their party’s promise to bring net migration into the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament. May wrote:
‘Getting the immigration system right is important to you. It’s important to me. That’s why we are working hard to ensure annual net migration is reduced from hundreds of thousands to a much more sustainable tens of thousands.’
‘We’re confident of reaching [the target]. What we had was an oil tanker steaming hard in the wrong direction in the last three years of the Labour government – immigration was going up, fast – we’ve now stabilised it, the last couple of figures we’ve got show that it’s stabilising and we will see it coming down in the years ahead.’
Why are both ministers doing this today? I understand that the Home Office is becoming increasingly wary of attempts by other departments to relax certain measures, particularly when it comes to international students, in order to maximise the potential for the economy to grow. May does have allies in this potential stand-off, though: Tim Montgomerie reports that Eric Pickles and Iain Duncan Smith are supporting her, worried about the effect on their own portfolios of a failure to cut the numbers.Tags: Immigration, UK politics