Immigration is a pretty important driver for voters who turn to Ukip. So you would have imagined that the party might have spent a while really making sure that its own policy on the matter is crystal clear.
This morning in Dover, Nigel Farage said ‘I’m saying a net level of about 30,000 a year is roughly what we had for 50 years from 1950 almost until the turn of the century’. This seemed to be a bit of an about-turn from the Ukip leader’s decision earlier this month to ditch the 50,000 cap on the number of migrants arriving in the UK each year.
Farage dropped the 50,000 target live on the Today programme just days after his immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe set it out at the Ukip conference. I understand the reason behind this confusion was that Woolfe hadn’t checked his speech with the right colleagues before delivering it, and was therefore aware of the impending U-turn. But in naming a much lower figure of 30,000, Farage is adding to the confusion, even if this is not a target but just an idea of where Ukip would like to be. Politicians avoid numbers for the reason that they then end up being held to them.
Of course, this probably still doesn’t help the other parties, as the Tories are reduced to pointing out the breakdown of the net migration figures, which are hopelessly (yet as Fraser explains, wonderfully) higher than the target David Cameron set. But the party clearly needs to have another chat about its line before it releases its manifesto.