Today’s news that lots of people want to come and work in a free, welcoming country with many opportunities and a growing economy is actually very bad news. Not for the economy, or those people, or probably the country, but for the politicians who thought it would be sensible to pledge that by the 2015 election, net migration would be in the ‘tens of thousands’. Today the Office for National Statistics reveals that net long-term migration to the UK was estimated to be 298,000 in the year to September 2014, up from 210,000 in the previous 12 months. Overall 624,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year ending September 2014. Net migration of 298,000 is not squeaking close to the target of tens of thousands. It’s as much of a wide as if a bowler had come steaming up to the crease, then aimed his delivery at deep extra-cover.
So why are the numbers so high? Both immigration of non-EU citizens and EU citizens were up, by 49,000 and 43,000 respectively, so it is difficult for Cameron to say that he only missed the target because you cannot control EU migration.
This is a disastrous failure of a pledge that never should have been made. The Tories should have realised that it is pointless to pledge to control something that you cannot control, given the target included EU migration. And they might have wondered whether it was the right thing to pledge anyway. But they did pledge it and have done nothing to improve voter confidence in politicians on one of the most sensitive subjects. The party’s conference boasts about immigration have got weaker over the last couple of years, going from ‘Immigration down’ in 2013 to ‘Net immigration down since its peak under Labour’:
The Tories were happy on Tuesday because the OECD praised their ‘long-term economic plan’. But today they will be dejected and Ukip happy as it prepares for its conference in Margate, which starts tomorrow, even though the net migration stats are a sign that the long-term economic plan is working. If people were leaving the country or choosing to move to anywhere but Britain, that would surely be a bad sign. But today’s net migration stats must be bad, because they are not what was supposed to happen.
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