Is immigration still a taboo subject? The debate may have opened up for politicians but voters are still anxious about discussing it, as a new poll from Sky News demonstrates. 42 per cent stated they think the current debate about immigration is being unfairly ‘shut down’ by accusations of racism, compared to just 24 per cent who think it is sensible and healthy. 40 per cent also believe they can’t discuss immigration openly because they are worried they will be seen as a bigot.
As Nigel Farage has frequently warned, Westminster appears to take a rather different view of immigration. In the last 12 months, all three party leaders have tried to highlight that Britain can have an open dialogue about immigration. Take this speech by Ed Miliband last December, where he was attempting to show Labour can also talk about dealing with immigration:
‘We must not fall into the trap of believing that to talk about people’s anxieties is to fuel them. And there is profound anxiety about immigration.’
Nick Clegg said pretty much the same thing back in March, kicking off his most recent speech on immigration with:
‘Today I want to talk about immigration. Not asylum; that’s an important distinction to make – immigration. The debate is opening up, and that’s a good thing. ‘
Even the Prime Minister has jumped on board to explain why we can now have a ‘sensible’ debate about immigration:
‘There are those who say you can’t have a sensible debate because it’s somehow wrong to express concerns about immigration. Now I think this is nonsense. Yes, of course it needs to be approached in a sensitive and a rational manner, but I’ve always understood the concerns – the genuine concerns of hard-working people, including many in our migrant communities, who worry about uncontrolled immigration.’
Elsewhere in Sky’s poll, two thirds stated the government needs to take ‘drastic action’ to reduce migration, compared to just 17 per cent who are satisfied with its current efforts. There still appears to be a significant disconnect between what politicians are saying, what they’re doing and what everyone else thinks. How much longer can the leaders kid himself that ‘let’s talk about immigration’ means anything beyond Westminster?