Today’s announcement that migrants cannot claim benefits if their English is so bad that they are unemployable looks suspiciously like another attempt by ministers to reassure fears about the end of those transitional controls on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants. And that is, in turn, an attempt to reassure Tory MPs that the government has done everything it can to keep Ukip at bay.
But what is the Tory plan for Ukip? It needs to work out how to fight Nigel Farage’s party in the European elections, how to pre-brief the European elections (presumably by talking up Ukip’s chances so much that any result looks like a disappointment), and how to stop the inevitable post-European elections panic.
Conservative MPs aren’t panicking yet, though: I hear that at the last parliamentary Conservative party meeting, Crispin Blunt raised Ukip with David Cameron and Lynton Crosby. The MPs present were then told promised a special meeting and presentation on the party’s Ukip strategy early in the New Year. They have tended to leave similar strategy meetings in the past in a rather good mood and with tasks from Crosby to keep them busy. If they don’t leave this meeting in a similar good mood, the panic might set in a little earlier than strategists had planned for.